BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – Just as Director General Ronald dela Rosa is supposed to settle down for retirement after heading the Philippine National Police (PNP), an issue explodes to haunt him on his way out: an alleged corruption case against his former Special Action Force (SAF) chief Director Benjamin Lusad, along with other officials.
Lusad and his cohorts are facing complaints of plunder and malversation of public funds for allegedly failing to distribute over P59.8 million meant as monthly allowances for SAF troops.
But as the issue landed on Dela Rosa’s retirement week, when his days are expectedly fully booked for farewell formalities, he decided to leave the issue up to his successor, Director Oscar Albayalde.
“I leave it up to the incoming Chief PNP however he wants to handle it,” Dela Rosa told reporters on Monday, April 16, after his testimonial parade at the Philippine Military Academy in Baguio City.
“Bigay ko sa kanya dahil panahon na niya ‘yan (I give it to him because it’s his time already),” Dela Rosa explained after he was asked about his decision.
Two-star general Lusad is currently assigned to the PNP Directorate for Integrated Police Operations in Southern Luzon after heading the SAF from July 2016 to December 2017. (READ: Mamasapano veteran back to lead PNP SAF)
PNP has no probe yet
Asked what he would do if it were him to handle the case, Dela Rosa said he would want to watch how the Ombudsman’s investigation unfolds first.
“Get to the bottom of it. Kailangang imbestigahan niya, para naman alam ng PNP, although meron nang ginagawang investigation ang Ombudsman, hintayin natin ang result ng Ombudsman,” Dela Rosa said.
(He needs to investigate it so that the PNP knows. Although the Ombudsman already has an investigation, let’s wait for their findings.)
He said he had heard about the allegations ahead of the formal filing of the complaint itself last week. Even so, he admitted that the PNP has not launched its own parallel investigation.
This explains why, so far, Dela Rosa has not sacked Lusad or his colleagues, even temporarily at least.
In practice, police officials entangled with corruption or criminal allegations are temporarily relieved as investigations push forward.
It turns out, there hasn’t been a PNP probe started in the first place.
Dela Rosa and Lusad go way back, all the way to their cadet days in the Philippine Military Academy. Dela Rosa is with PMA batch 1986, while Lusad is with PMA batch 1985.
Even before becoming PNP chief, Dela Rosa had already seen Lusad as his “tagaligtas” (savior) – the PNP’s monicker for SAF troopers.
Dela Rosa recalled that when he would be set for beatings by his batch 1985 upperclassmen for committing mistakes, Lusad would stand in his defense.
“Siya ‘yung nagsave sa akin, respetado siya sa klase nila…Hindi ako nabugbog dahil ‘andoon siya, dinepensahan niya ako,” Dela Rosa told reporters. (He saved me. He was respected by his class. I was not beaten because he defended me.)
But despite his gratitude to his senior, the retiring PNP chief recognized that preventing beatings is no match to blocking corruption allegations.
“This time around pagdating sa corruption, walang savior-savior diyan. You save yourself,” a flustered Dela Rosa said. (This time when it comes to corruption, there are no saviors. You save yourself.)
Watching over the case from here onwards, Albayalde – once a SAF trooper himself – understands only too well the struggle of SAF troopers to get their delayed allowance fees. – Rappler.com