Returning money won't stop probes vs ex-SAF chief – Dela Rosa

MANILA, Philippines – Even if every peso of the allegedly missing P59.8 million intended for police Special Action Force (SAF) troopers is returned, all probes against the plunder-accused former SAF chief and officers will push through.

This was revealed by outgoing Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa on Tuesday night, April 17, during his retirement testimonial dinner.

"The complaint stays, and the investigation goes on whether or not naibalik na 'yung pera (the money is returned)...Binalik man nila o hindi, dapat imbestigahan (Whether they return the money or not, it should be investigated)," Dela Rosa told reporters on Tuesday. 

The top cop was referring to the corruption allegations against former SAF chief Director Benjamin Lusad, his budget and fiscal officer Senior Superintendent Andre Dizon, and police sergeants Maila Salazar Bustamante and James Rodrigo Irica from the SAF’s finance office.

They have been accused before the Office of the Ombudsman of accumulating around P59.8 million ($1.15 million)* in SAF funds intended for ground troops' monthly allowances from July 2016 to December 2017.

PNP begins probe: On Tuesday night, Dela Rosa said that the PNP Directorate for Comptrollership, the office in charge of the police force's budgeting, has launched an investigation into the case.

He added that he will also order another investigation to be conducted by the PNP's Internal Affairs Service (IAS), the police office in charge of investigating and filing administrative cases against erring cops.

Should the IAS find an irregularity with how Lusad and his officers handled the SAF budget, the harshest punishment the office could give is to recommend their service dismissal, which would still be up for the PNP chief's signature. (READ: Fate of ex-SAF chief up to Albayalde now – Dela Rosa)

IAS' findings, however, can be presented in a court that may order arrest and jail time.

All these developments will most likely fall under the term of incoming PNP chief Director Oscar Albayalde, as Dela Rosa is set to retire from the police service on Thursday, April 19. 

The SAF allowances controversy hits Albayalde hard, as he has served as a SAF commando before becoming a popular police general. –

*US$1 = P52.15

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.