P37 million in allegedly withheld SAF funds returned to PNP

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 18) — A portion of the alleged missing funds for the Philippine National Police-Special Action Forces (PNP-SAF) has been returned, PNP Chief Ronald "Bato" Dela Rosa said Wednesday.

"Naibalik na yung around ₱37 million," Dela Rosa told CNN Philippines' The Source. "According to (SAF Director) Gen. (Noli) Taliño... dinidistribute nila doon sa mga tropa na hindi nakatanggap yung pera na yun."

This comes after former SAF Chief Benjamin Lusad and three other officers were relieved for alleged plunder and grave misconduct. Incumbent and retired SAF officers accused them of failing to release a subsistence allowance of ₱59 million to over 4,000 troopers. Lusas is current chief of the Directorate for Integrated Police Operations-Southern Luzon

Dela Rosa said he previously worked with Lusad under the Cadet Corps of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. He described the former SAF director as "napakagaling, napakasipag [really good and hardworking]" and "a very snappy police officer."

He also said Lusad confided in him about the controversy.

"Sabi niya he is an operations guy. Pinabayaan lang niya ang kanyang fiscal officer na mag-asikaso sa financial affairs... and hindi niya alam nagkabuhol-buhol na ang kanilang funds," said Dela Rosa. "Hindi naman niya tinatakbuhan ang responsibilidad na iyan at pilit niyang ibalik yung pera na nawawala."

[Translation: He said he is an operations guy. He just left his fiscal officer to look into financial affairs... and he didn't know about the mess in funds. He didn't run from the responsibility, and he continues to make sure the missing money is returned.]

When asked whether he believed Lusad was not involved, Dela Rosa said, "I took his word at face value."

"Sinabi niya sa akin but sabi ko there is already an investigation going on so please harapin mo ang problema mo [na] iyan," said Dela Rosa.

[He told me, but I said there is already an investigation going on, so please face that problem of yours.]

Interior Officer-in-Charge, Undersecretary Eduardo Año and incoming PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde said they would make sure SAF personnel will receive the subsistence allowance due them.

CNN Philippines' correspondent Gerg Cahiles contributed to this story.