Senate report: Euro generals ‘guilty’ Graft, money laundering cited


By Juliet Labog-Javellana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:47:00 10/26/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The Senate committee on foreign relations has found the entire Philippine National Police delegation to the 77th Interpol General Assembly in Russia guilty.

In a draft report signed by its chair Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, the committee recommended the criminal prosecution of the eight-man PNP delegation for graft, malversation of public funds, and violation of the anti-money laundering law and banking rules.

In what was perhaps the fastest legislative investigation conducted in the Senate, the committee also recommended that PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa and Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno be subjected to preliminary investigation for violating government travel restrictions.

The report is being circulated for the signature of the committee vice chair, Sen. Mar Roxas, and its members.

The committee opened on Thursday an inquiry into the P6.9 million brought to Russia early this month by then PNP Director and comptroller Eliseo de la Paz, who has since retired.

Santiago gave the Philippine Daily Inquirer a copy of the eight-page report on Friday, a day before she flew to New York for the Nov. 6 elections of the International Court of Justice. The senator is vying for an Asian seat in the court.

She said she issued her report after the committee ended its Thursday hearing, where De la Paz was a no-show.

But she said the inquiry could be reopened when De la Paz is brought before the committee.

Antonette Aristoza, the committee secretary, told the Inquirer that as of Saturday, there were “no instructions for further hearings.”

Criminal liability

The committee’s first recommendation was for the Department of Justice and the Ombudsman to conduct a preliminary investigation on the PNP delegates to the Interpol assembly.

The report said it “appears that some or all of them might be criminally liable” for the following offenses—malversation, under Article 17 of the Penal Code; technical malversation of public funds under Article 220; violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 and the New Central Bank Act.

The PNP delegates were De la Paz, Deputy Directors General Emmanuel Carta and Ismael Rafanan, Directors Romeo Ricardo, Silverio Alarcio and Silverio Doria, Chief Supt. Jaime Caringal, and Supt. Elmer Pelobello, the designated aide of the group.

The wives of De la Paz, Caringal, Carta and PNP chief Verzosa also joined the trip, but both the police and Puno have maintained that the women paid their own way.

The report said the delegation violated the travel ban under Administrative Order No. 103 issued by President Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004. AO 103 suspends foreign travels except for ministerial meetings and scholarship or training that are of no expense to the government.

The same ban, on account of austerity measures, was reiterated in Executive Order No. 459 issued in 2005, and PNP Circular No. 202-017 issued in 2002, which provides that foreign travels shall not involve government or PNP funds.

The report said the delegation also violated the law on allowable travel expenses stated under EO 298, which provides for a daily subsistence allowance of $229, or about P11,450. The report noted that the per diem of the PNP delegation amounted to P21,418, or almost double the amount allowed by law.

The PNP delegation also violated the law against the travel of officials who are about to retire, the report said.

It said all but one of the officials who went to Russia were more or less 55 years old, near the retirement age of 56.

Puno

“Such preliminary investigation should include the [interior] secretary,” the report said.

It held Puno liable for violating Malacañang’s rules on travel, after noting that the grant of travel authority to some officials and employees were delegated to department secretaries like himself under EO 459.

“Under the doctrine in administrative law that liability follows duty, the [interior] secretary should be held liable for violating the travel ban under [AO] 103 issued in 2004,” the report said.

During the Thursday hearing, which served as a scolding session for Puno, Verzosa and the other PNP officials, Santiago assailed the interior secretary for allowing the trip to Russia despite the existing austerity measures of the President.

She also questioned Puno and Verzosa for allowing the retiring police officials to travel in violation of government rules.

The report asked that Verzosa be subjected as well to preliminary investigation for ignoring the travel ban.

“At the hearing, the PNP chief admitted that he was informed of a so-called contingency fund in the amount of some P7 million, but all he did was to order an investigation after the event,” it said.

De la Paz

The report also recommended that De la Paz be arrested and detained in the Senate.

But up to Saturday, the Senate has not issued the arrest warrant for De la Paz, who made himself scarce after arriving from Russia on Tuesday.

The report noted the ex-comptroller’s statement that he would appeal his arrest before the Supreme Court.

“Even so, unless the Supreme Court orders otherwise, De la Paz should remain in detention under Senate custody, until he purges himself of the contempt,” it said.

The committee cited De la Paz in contempt when he failed to show up at the inquiry. Santiago then ordered his arrest, but the warrant needed to be signed by Senate President Manuel Villar, who arrived from abroad only on Saturday.

The report also pinned down De la Paz for several violations, saying his claim that he was carrying contingency funds had no basis in law.

“While the authorized travel expenses amounted to some P2.3 million, the alleged ‘contingency fund’ amounted to P6.9 million. Thus, the contingency fund carried by De la Paz could not possibly be placed in the category of ‘incidental expenses,’” the report said.

It said his claim was also contrary to law because contingency funds should not be given in advance.

The report likewise defended the committee’s jurisdiction over the case and the contempt citation for De la Paz.

It said the majority needed to issue the arrest warrant referred only to a majority of all the members present, and not of the whole committee.

PNP probe

The PNP is expected to release the results of its own investigation on Monday.

On Friday, Verzosa faced the media but still shed little light on the questioned release of the travel fund for the PNP delegation to Russia.

Verzosa stood pat on his testimony before the Senate committee on foreign relations that he had no hand in the release of any cash advance for the PNP delegation.

He said he had also limited the authority of Senior Supt. Tomas Rentoy III, budget division chief of the PNP Directorate for Comptrollership, while Camp Crame continued its inquiry into the latter’s alleged transaction with De la Paz in withdrawing the P6.9 million from the PNP coffers.

“[Rentoy] is under investigation by the Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management,” Verzosa said. “The penal actions [and] administrative actions against him will be put up and recommended upon termination of investigation.”

Rentoy is still on active duty but “we’ve advised him not to undertake disbursements,” Verzosa said. With a report from Tarra Quismundo

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My Take:

Maybe Jun Lozada can help shed light as to the whereabout of General De la Paz.

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