Dela Paz takes blame for Moscow mess

PNP exec admits irregularity in release of funds

By Abigail Kwok, Maila Ager
First Posted 11:27:00 11/15/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 2) Retired police comptroller Eliseo Dela Paz admitted Saturday sole responsibility for the alleged unauthorized release of the P6.9 million from the Philippine National Police (PNP) intelligence fund.

But Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago refused to believe Dela Paz’s claim, which she called “heroic.”

“Your own office, Mr. Dela Paz, is saying that you are guilty of violating applicable laws when you ordered, and verbally at that, the release of P7 million. Do you agree or not?” Santiago said.

“I agree your honor,” Dela Paz said.

Santiago was citing the results of the PNP initial investigation into the Moscow incident, which stated that “The only basis for the release of P7 million from the confidential intelligence fund from the PNP was the verbal instruction of Police Director Dela Paz. Therefore it could not be denied that irregularity attended the use of government funds.”

“Do you agree that your superior official, such as the PNP chief [Director General Jesus Verzosa] and the DILG [Department of Interior and Local Government] secretary [Ronaldo Puno] should be absolved, and instead, all blame and guilt should be pinned on you? Do you agree with this situation? Because in effect that is the consequence of this statement in the PNP report” Santiago asked.

“The release of the P10 million for the travel expenses for the supposedly contingency fund is based on my instructions,” Dela Paz said.

“That’s very heroic. You are assuming all guilt. But I have to tell you as a lawyer and a formal trial judge that you are facing a regular sentence of 20 years or more than that. Are you ready to do that? Go to jail 20 years, leave your wife your child, your vision impaired child, just so other people can be free? Because I refuse to believe, Mr. Dela Paz, that you are the sole perpetrator of the crime or offenses stated in these two reports. I believe you are part of a bigger conspiracy and that…you are willing to assume responsibility for others. That seems for me to be the most humanitarian view of the situation,” Santiago said.

Despite of this, Dela Paz still insisted that the release of the P6.9 million was “on my own behalf.”

To which Santiago answered, “Let me just say this for the record as chair of this committee [Committee on Foreign Relations]…very often we find cases where a middle-level official tries to cover up for his superiors. That is the problem of corruption in this country and that is the reason why the culture of corruption is endemic and seems to be permanent in our country because only the little fish go to jail and the big fish never, in fact they continue and prosper.”

Later on in the hearing, Superintendent Samuel Rodriguez, disbursing officer for directorate for intelligence, admitted that it was “unusual” that the retired comptroller requested around P10 million from the PNP intelligence funds to be used for the PNP delegation to the Interpol conference.

Rodriguez told Senators that he was told by Senior Superintendent Tomas Rentoy, chief of the budget division of the directorate for comptrollership, to “reserve” P10 million for the use of the PNP delegation.

But Rodriguez said he was unaware of the 105,000 euros carried by Dela Paz when he and his wife were accosted by Russian customs officials.

“With regards to the 105,000 euros, sir, I do not have any knowledge sir. But I was only told to reserve P10 million for the delegation, which I immediately informed my immediate officer, [Chief Superintendent Orlando Pestaño, chief of the PNP finance services],” Rodriguez said.

“Initially sir, with the request of directorate for comptrollership, through Rentoy, told me to have the money, I immediately informed my immediate officer Pestaño that Rentoy is requesting for the P10 million fund to be sourced from the intelligence and confidential fund,” he added.

Admitting that there was something “unusual” with the request, Rodriguez said he wrote a letter to both Pestaño and Dela Paz.

“Before I complied sir, I immediately told my superior [Pestaño] that the amount of P10 million was being requested by the directorate for comptrollership. I made a notification addressed to my immediate officer that there will be a violation of some auditing rules so I made it a point to notify him through a memo and then I also made a memo and I submitted to Rentoy informing Dela Paz that there’s a violation with regards to release of funds from the intelligence fund,” Rodriguez said.

A copy of the memo, read by Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr., cited Presidential Decree 1445 (Government Auditing Code of the Philippines) Section 106, which read, “No accountable officer shall be relieved from liability by reason of his having acted under the direction of a superior officer in paying out, applying, or disposing of the funds or property with which he is chargeable, unless prior to that act, he notified the superior officer in writing of the illegality of the payment, application, or disposition. The officer directing any illegal payment or disposition of the funds or property shall be primarily liable for the loss, while the accountable officer who fails to serve the required notice shall be secondarily liable.”

The memo also said that the money requested by Dela Paz through Rentoy was supposedly allocated for the directorate for intelligence to “support their approved projects in carrying out their intelligence/confidential activities for the month of September.”

Answering questions of Senator Rodolfo Biazon, Dela Paz said he requested and approved the release of about P10 million in contingent fund for the PNP delegates to the 77th Interpol general assembly held in Moscow last month and should therefore be held responsible for it.

“There’s no scapegoat dito (here), our honor,” he said, “May pangangailangan po yung magta-travel so being the comptroller kelangang hanapan ng solution yung pangangailangan na yan. Dun na nakita na may pondo sa intelligence fund (There’s a need for those who are traveling so being the comptroller I had to find a solution for that need. That’s when the intelligence fund was noticed),” he said.

He said the money was used for plane tickets, hotels, and other expenses.

But Biazon noted that the money was seized by airport authorities in Moscow while the delegation was returning to the country.

The senator could not understand why the money was still intact when it was supposed to have been used by the delegates.

Sometime during the hearing, Dela Paz repeatedly invoked his right against incrimination when asked why he did not declare the euros he was carrying.

Dela Paz first invoked this right when asked by Senator Loren Legarda if he was aware of a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas circular stating that a person carrying more than $10,000 should declare the money when going in and out of the country.

“Your honor, I would like to invoke my privilege against self-incrimination,” he told senators investigating the issue.

“My question, Mr. Dela Paz, is very simple whether you actually knew that v there was a BSP circular or whether you just refused to comply. Napaka simple po. I’m not here to try to pin you down. I’m here simply to seek out the truth,” Legarda said.

When pressed, the retired officer, after consulting his lawyers, corrected himself and said he was aware of the circular.

“If I may correct myself your honor, na alam ko yung (I know about the) more than 10,000,” Dela Paz said.

But he again invoked n his right b against self-incrimination when the senator asked why he did not declare the money he was carrying in Moscow.

“Your honor, as I said earlier, I would like to invoke my privilege (against) self-incrimination as advised by my counsel,” he said.

“Your question, if answered, will incriminate me,” he said, pointing out that the subject matter was already part of the Ombudsman’s own investigation on the same issue.

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