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Ombudsman revives 'euro generals' case

MANILA, Philippines (Jan 6, 2012) - The case the the "euro generals" is not put to rest after all, as Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has ordered its reinvestigation.

Former interior secretary Ronaldo Puno and a dozen other former and current officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) led by retired Director General Avelino Razon Jr. will be investigated for graft and technical malversation of public funds “for approving, receiving, and/or using or allowing the use of the amount of (P2,314,096.00) from the PNP confidential/intelligence fund for travel expense and allowance of delegates to the Interpol Assembly in St. Petersburg, Russia.”

Others to be probed include then Deputy Director Generals Emmanuel Carta and Ismael Rafanan as chiefs for Administration and Operations; retired Directors Romeo Ricardo and Jaime Caringal who were then chief of Directorate for Plans and PNP Region IX; Director for Human Resources and Doctrine Development German Doria; Director for Operations Silverio Alarcio Jr.; Chief Superintendents Samuel Rodriguez as Special Disbursing Officer and Orlando Pestano as Director for Finance Service; Senior Superintendent Tomas Rentoy III who is Director for the Budget Division; and Superintendent Elmer Pelobello.

A special panel of investigators will review the findings of the first probe which only recommended the filing of charges against former comptroller Eliseo de la Paz and his wife Maria Fe.

Assistant Special Prosecutor III Joefferson Toribio and Director Susan Guillermo will head the five-man team tasked to conduct another investigation to determine if graft, technical malversation, and other criminal cases should be lodged against those who were questionably cleared of any liability during the time of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

Based on the recommendations of Toribio contained in a 39-page memorandum, Puno and Razon, along with Directors Romeo Ricardo and Edgardo Acuña as chiefs for Plans and Personnel and Records Management, will be probed for possible violation of Article 237 of the Revised Penal Code which penalizes acts of Prolonging Performance of Duties and Powers.

De la Paz, Rodriguez, Pestano, Rentoy II, and Pelobello will also be investigated for separate graft and technical malversation of public funds charges “for approving, receiving, and/or using or allowing the use of the amount of (P7 million) from PNP confidential/intelligence fund as contingency fund for the foreign travel” and for alleged violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act “for persuading, inducing or influencing other police officers or allowing to be persuaded, induced or influenced in releasing confidential/intelligence fund to be used as travel allowance, expenses and contingency fund” for the controversial foreign trip.

The special panel, with Director Dennis Garcia, Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer II Richard Buban, and Assistant Special Prosecutor I Lyn Dimayuga, will further look into the possible filing of criminal charges against former acting foreign secretary Franklin Ebdalin and Senior Superintendent Joel Ma. Alvarez of the Philippine Center on Transnational Crime.

The case against them would involve possible violation of the Revised Penal Code for making a false narration of facts in relation to how they identified the wife of former PNP chief Jesus Verzosa (Cynthia) to join the delegation by identifying her as a member of the Office of the Deputy Chief for Administration which she was not.

Morales gave the special panel a period of 30 days to submit a report and its recommendations based on the outcome of a preliminary investigation wherein all respondents will again be asked to answer the charges.

The euro generals case made it to the headlines more than three years ago after De la Paz and his wife were barred from leaving the Shremetyevo International Airport in Moscow, Russia after they were caught carrying 105,000 euros or P6.9 million in October 2008.

The Office of the Ombudsman conducted a lengthy investigation of the incident and recommended the filing of graft, perjury, falsification of documents, grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, and other criminal and administrative cases.

After preliminary investigation, the anti-graft agency, in July 2011, ordered the filing of cases before the Sandiganbayan for violation of Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Circular No. 507, which “penalizes any person who brings into or takes out of the Philippines foreign currency in excess of $10,000 and fails to declare the same in writing” and violation of the Revised Penal Code for acts of “Prolonging the Performance of Duties and Powers” against De la Paz.

Everybody else was cleared of any liability.

The Office of the Ombudsman said “the disbursement and utilization of the funds in connection with the travel were found to be in order” and that “the refund by the respondents of the full amount of P10 million used by the respondent PNP delegates” means that there was no undue injury to government.

Toribio’s memorandum, which has now paved the way for a reopening of the investigation, states that “the Joint Resolution overlooked key pieces of evidence in this case and proceeded to absolve all of the respondents except the De la Paz spouses.”

“It must be noted, however, that the return of the (P10 million) was made after a long period of almost nine months.”

The document submitted to the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division yesterday read: “In view of the nature of confidential/intelligence funds of the PNP which are allotted or programmed per month, the return of the said amount after a long period of time would have already caused undue injury and damage to the government.

“The injury in this case stems from the fact that the government was effectively deprived of the use of its public funds in the amount of P10,000,000 from the time that the same was received by accused De la Paz and his co-respondents in September to October 2008 up to the date of its alleged reimbursement on 25 June 2009, or for a period of almost nine months. (From