Ex-SAF chief Lusad, staff blame each other in allowances mess

MANILA, Philippines – Embattled Philippine National Police (PNP) Special Action Force (SAF) chief Director Benjamin Lusad tried to save himself by passing the blame to his staff on the multi-million SAF allowances mess.

Speaking under oath before the Senate committee on public safety and dangerous drugs on Tuesday, May 22, Lusad claimed that when he led the SAF he was "not very informed" that millions-worth of allowances had not been given to thousands of troopers.

He said he knew that the unit held millions, but he denied knowing that they came from delayed releases.

"Right from the start when I assumed command, I have given my trust and confidence to the members of my staff. I was focused on the operational aspect of my task and I was actually not very informed that such funds would be coming from [the allowances]," Lusad said.

The former SAF chief tried to show that his care and responsibility for finances was limited to regularly asking his budget officer, Senior Superintendent Andre Dizon, whether the unit had more money to spare for SAF "activities". (CHEAT SHEET: The SAF allowances issue)

"When I asked my staff if funds are available, he would answer the positive. I had always the belief that those funds were available for those kinds of activities," Lusad said, presumably referring to training and fellowship programs they claim to have legally allocated the funds for.

JUST FOLLOWING? Police SSupt Andre Dizon during the senate hearing on SAF funds on May 22, 2018. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

JUST FOLLOWING? Police SSupt Andre Dizon during the senate hearing on SAF funds on May 22, 2018.

Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

Lusad's staff blames him: But his budget officer Dizon deflected the blame, explaining that the release or restriction of allowances is ultimately Lusad's decision.

"Sir, ang [allowances] nirerelease 'pag may clearance sa [SAF] director. Bilang staff, sumusunod lang po ako," Dizon said, defending himself. (Sir, the allowances are only released with the clearance of the SAF director. As staff, I just follow.)

The staff below Dizon also pointed to the top when asked why the allowances had not been released.

Accused SAF Finance Office staff Maila Salazar Bustamante said she only held documents on the release of the funds, while the other accused staff who held the money, James Rodrigo Irica, said he only followed orders from Dizon.

"Ako po 'yung finance PNCO. 'Pag may dumating pong 'kabuhayan' or [allowances], instruction lang po ang iniintay ko kay sir Dizon kung irerelease or hindi," said Irica.

(I am the finance Police Non-Commissioned Officer. When the [allowances] arrive, I just wait instructions from sir Dizon on whether to release them or not.)

The committee inquiry was cut short before any of them could expound on their narratives as the committee chairman, Senator Panfilo Lacson, had to attend another hearing.

They are expected to answer more questions – perhaps clash more with each other – in the following hearings. – Rappler.com

 

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.

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