SCAPEGOAT: The Philippine National Police should erect a hollow monument of retired police comptroller Eliseo Dela Paz for absorbing the blame for the unusual release of P6.9 million in intelligence funds for generals attending a convention in Russia.
Senators grilling him and police top brass led by PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa could not get Dela Paz — tagged a scapegoat by many — to implicate his superiors at the PNP and the Department of Interior and Local Governments.
The scene was a deja vu of another Senate hearing last Thursday where former Undersecretary Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante steadfastly refused to link President Gloria Arroyo to the P728-million fertilizer scam during the 2004 election campaign.
The saga of the P6.9 million unreeled after Moscow airport authorities found last Oct. 11 some 105,000 euros in the bag of Dela Paz as his PNP contingent prepared to depart after attending an Interpol assembly in St. Petersburg.
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ROT IN JAIL: Sen. Miriam Santiago, a former judge, gave a friendly warning to Dela Paz that he could rot for 20 years in jail if he took the blame. She said the fund release violated several laws, executive orders and other issuances.
“Your own office is saying you are guilty of violating applicable laws when you ordered the release of P7 (P6.9 rounded) million,” Santiago, presiding over the hearing, told him. “Do you agree or not?”
“I agree, your honor,” Dela Paz replied. “The release of the P10 million (from which the P6.9 million was taken) for the travel expenses for the contingency fund (of the PNP delegation) is based on my instructions.”
Santiago pursued: “I refuse to believe that you are the sole perpetrator of the crime or offenses stated in these two (Napolcom and PNP) reports. I believe you are part of a bigger conspiracy and that you are willing to assume responsibility for others.”
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COVERUP: Fears of a coverup were dispelled momentarily when Supt. Samuel Rodriguez, disbursing officer for intelligence, testified it was “unusual” that the retired comptroller requested P10 million from intelligence funds to be used for the Interpol conference.
Rodriguez said he was told earlier by Senior Supt. Tomas Rentoy, budget chief for comptrollership, to “reserve” P10 million for the delegation on request of Dela Paz.
Knowing this to be a violation of the rules, Rodriguez informed in writing his superior, Chief Supt. Orlando Pestaño, chief of PNP finance services. He also wrote a letter to Dela Paz telling him his misgivings.
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COMMAND CHAIN: Still, Dela Paz had his way — although he had nothing to do with intelligence services. To do this, he merely assured Rodriguez and Pestaño “ako na’ng bahala” (“I’ll take care of it”).
Sen. Richard Gordon chided Pestaño for not going over the head of Dela Paz and reporting to the PNP chief the impending violation. (Verzosa testified later that he was not yet the PNP chief at the time but Avelino Razon.)
Gordon reminded them that the police was civilian in character, and differently oriented from the military where a strict chain of command is followed.
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PRUDENCE: Among the senators whose cool questioning caught attention last Thursday was Gordon. Here are excerpts from his exchange with Bolante:
Gordon: Sir, nung bago kayo napunta sa agriculture you were with Prudential insurance, right?
Bolante: Opo. (He was president of Prudential Life Plan Inc.)
G: You were the president of Prudential. Certainly dapat napaka-ingat nyo dahil insurance yan, di ba?
G: Nang na-appoint kayo rito (agriculture) sinabi pinili lang kayo ng search committee. At wala kang alam na lumakad sa appointment mo, di ba? Samakatuwid nilagay ka dyan dahil maganda ang qualifications mo. Tama ba yun?
G: At meron kang talent sa finance.
G: Ang hindi ko maintindihan ay bakit in spite of that, tila ba ang lumabas sa atin eh bibili kayo ng abono, magpo-provide kayo ng abono pero yung prudence mukhang iniwan mo sa Prudential. Naging very imprudent ka, eh kasi ang lumalabas sa naririnig ko kanina pa eh tila bumili ka ng abono o fertilizer ang mga tao mo na yun pala eh hindi naman nababagay sapagkat ito ay for ornamental plants. Alam mo ba yun?
B: Your honor, una sa lahat, hindi po kami bumili ng abono. We had no hand whatsoever in the procurement. Pangalawa po, yung foliar fertilizer per se is not necessarily inappropriate, depende po sa purpose at saka usage.
G: Andun nako. Nonetheless, kahit na hindi kayo ang bumili, ikaw ay pinagkatiwalaan ng P728 million, di ba? Ang pinagtatakahan ko, yung P728 million biglang lumabas on the eve of the election of 2004. Now, hindi ako magtataka dahil karamihan ng nakikita ko rin naman sa mga dating mga pangulo, nag-aabang ng pera yan para pagdating sa kampanya meron silang magagamit na ilalabas. Alam nyo yan sapagkat kumuha pa kayo ng exemption sa Comelec para ma-distribute ito. Lumalabas sa aking pananaw na talagang hinanda ito for 2004. Whether I’m right or wrong is immaterial. The fact is, yun ang nangyari. May perang sobra on the eve of the election at yun ay ginastos sa 2004. Alam nyo, you commit a crime by commission or omission. Sa tingin ko parang commission yun eh. Para bang nagbigay ng pera na sobra na timing sa eve of the election, at pagkatapos, kahit na sabihin mo ang gumastos ay iba, tungkulin mo bilang prudent executive na bantayan yung magpapagawa ng proyekto.