Lacson seeks probe on P59.8-M alleged SAF allowance anomaly

MANILA — Senator Panfilo Lacson has filed a resolution seeking a Senate investigation into the alleged illegal withholding of the release of about PHP59.8 million in daily subsistence allowance and explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) hazardous pay for the Philippine National Police’s (PNP) elite force.

In Senate Resolution 712, which he filed Tuesday afternoon, Lacson cited the need to probe into the allegations as it threatens to demoralize members of the Special Action Force (SAF), who are the front-liners in the fight against terrorism and criminality.

To strengthen the SAF, some 4,000 members who engage in life-threatening police operations are entitled to a daily additional subsistence allowance (ASA) of PHP30 a day (PHP900 a month), and allocations for EOD hazardous pay.

Lacson noted that despite the release of the amounts by the Department of Budget and Management and the receipt of the same by the SAF Financial Service, records showed that SAF members only got their share of ASA for January 2016 and January to July 2017.

When confronted with the issue on the non-release of ASA, then SAF head, Benjamin Lusad, and SAF budget officer, Senior Supt. Andre Dizon, admitted they got the unreleased ASA. They also admitted using the amounts for operational expenses, fellowship, and training but did not have any proof of liquidation.

Lacson, who headed the PNP from 1999 to 2001, said the unlawful withholding of these funds, if proven true, “constitutes a criminal or unlawful act and runs counter to the evident policy of President Rodrigo Duterte to increase the pay of military and uniformed personnel in order to repay them for their sacrifices.”

“We cannot allow, yet again, another injustice to be committed against our heroes in uniform who are in the forefront of our fight against the ills of terrorism and criminality, lest we risk demoralization within their ranks,” Lacson said.

His resolution directs the Senate Committee on Public Order and Dangerous Drugs to conduct an inquiry on the alleged illegal withholding of the release of the allowances.

It seeks to propose remedial legislation “to correct the same and put a stop to this unlawful practice to the prejudice of the intended beneficiaries.”

“There is a need to revisit existing laws and their implementation to ensure that the benefits granted by law to our police officers are indeed received by them, and to determine whether there is unlawful deprivation of their lawful right that requires the imposition of sanctions to the erring officials of the SAF,” Lacson said.

His resolution comes on the heels of plunder and malversation raps filed by current and former SAF personnel against Lusad, Dizon, and police sergeants Maila Salazar Bustamante and James Rodrigo Irica of the SAF’s finance office before the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices.

Prior to filing his resolution, Lacson said members of the SAF had approached him to air their grievances on the matter, furnishing his office a copy of their complaint affidavit and annexes filed before the Office of the Ombudsman.