CHEAT SHEET: The SAF allowances issue

Rambo Talabong

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CHEAT SHEET: The SAF allowances issue
Here's what you need to know about the controversy over the P59.8-million Special Action Force allowances

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate starts on Tuesday morning, May 22, its investigation into the failure of the Philippine National Police (PNP) to release the allowances of its elite unit, the Special Action Force (SAF), over the course of two years. 

The unreleased funds amount to P59.8 million, and are also the subject of a parallel probe by the Office of the Ombudsman.

What is the issue about? SAF troopers are entitled to allowances of P30 a day or P900 a month each.

For two years, thousands of troopers didn’t receive these allowances, totalling P59.8 million.

For the thousands of SAF personnel who usually are assigned to remote areas, P30 a day in cash already means a lot. They subsist on the meager amount while on the field because they usually leave their salary debit cards with their spouses or families.

Who is at fault? Nobody has been formally accused, but 4 SAF personnel, who apparently had the power over the release of the money, are under investigation:

  1. Former SAF chief Benjamin Lusad
  2. Budget and Fiscal Officer Andre Dizon
  3. SAF Finance Office staff Maila Salazar Bustamante
  4. SAF FinanceOffice staff James Rodrigo Irica

The 4 cops are facing plunder and malversation charges before the Office of the Ombudsman and have been temporarily relieved from the police service as probes push forward. 

Investigations have yet to find out whether the blame goes higher than Lusad or not.

How have the officers explained it? Lusad and Dizon claimed they legally used the millions for operations, trainings, and fellowships.

Since the issue erupted, the accused have not made any public appearance. Lusad has not been responding to Rappler’s questions about his side of the story.

What is the latest development? Dizon recently returned P37 million to the PNP, as confirmed by former PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa and current SAF head Director Noli Taliño.

When he spoke with reporters, Taliño declined to give details of the return, saying his budget officer processed the transaction.

What are questions that need to be answered?

If the allegations of plunder and malversation complaints are true:

  1. By procedure, how were Lusad and his accomplices able to stow the money away?
  2. Did higher officials and budget officers of Camp Crame know of the controversy? What did they do to stop SAF from bleeding?
  3. Why did Dizon return P37 million to the PNP?
  4. Where is the remaining P22.8 million?

If Lusad and his cohorts are to be believed:

  1. Where is proof that the allowances budget was allocated for operations and other programs? 
  2. Did Lusad get authorization from higher-ups before moving forward with re-allocating millions from allowances?

with a report from Bea Cupin/

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Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers the House of Representatives and local governments for Rappler. Prior to this, he covered security and crime. He was named Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs. In 2021, he was selected as a journalism fellow by the Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics.