From Russia with cops
The attendance of a strong delegation from the PNP to the 77th Interpol General Assembly held recently in Saint Petersburg, Russia has stirred a lot of peripheral issues than only one, which is, that at least one officer has been found by the Russian authorities to have undeclared amount of euro money beyond the authorized limit upon his arrival in Moscow and thereby detained for such apparent violaton. Possibly, the key members of the police organization failed to put their acts together to at least defend their officers from the embarrassment with one claiming the excess amount is meant to be a contingency fund with another denying that it was. Contingency fund, cash advance, public money, private money have become issues to resolve in what will be a forthcoming full-dressed investigation into the apparent euro scandal involving those PNP officers and their spouses that attended the 77th Interpol general assembly by the Senate – what with 30 aides of PGMA to be summoned to a public hearing.
Because of this so-called ‘euro scandal’, the PNP will now review official foreign travels by its officers with the end in view of coming up with new guidelines or policy. Because of this scandal that has been rather blown out of proportion, Senate will investigate. The Department of Foreign Affairs could have been expected to have applied the ‘first aid’ to a ‘minor diplomatic injury’ inflicted by the RP team against the Russian authorities – but it did not care. The PNP should have outright communicated with the Russian authorities and promptly asked for apology. In short, our very own Interpol should have taken care of this Interpol scandal as it is well within its province to do so. Instead, all normal positive approaches that could have been undertaken digressed from what simply was the scandal all about. In the process, we saw two agencies of government telling us that at the NBI, this much amount of money is authorized – fare, per diem and all while at the PNP, this amount of money, higher than that authorized at the NBI is so allowed. This can lead us to ask on whether or not there should be a uniform budgetary guideline applied to all. Are PNP officers better off than NBI lawyers sent to the assembly?
The point that will probably be looked into is on whether or not euros in some significant amount have been smuggled into Russia for whatever seeming purpose or motive. Another could be whether or not, those with that money, may have been guilty of money laundering which is a crime on either side of the geographical fence. Are there acts not deemed official acts of the PNP and of the Philippine government for that matter? Cut against the authorized cash limit, how much in excess has been carried by one of the PNP delegation and on whether or not this is deemed too excessive as to be violative of anti-money laundering laws offshore? Now that Russian authorities have already cleared the PNP officer concerned if not the whole delegation, has not the matter now became moot and academic as to further allow a last-ditch Senate inquiry? For what ends will the entirely vicious parliamentary ritual be relevant to? It should be now water under the bridge, so what ought to stimulate any further discussion? If anyone officer or a group of officers did in fact carry cash in excess of the P2.3 million funded from the PNP budget for this Moscow trip, has it not come as rather understandable considering that they had with them their respective spouses?
It was a 12-member delegation to the 77th Interpol with authorized fund of P2.3 million for all participants. Truly, the P6.93 million or 105,000 euros carried by Dela Paz exceeds authorized limit set by the PNP and again set by Russian authorities in terms of their anti-money laundering law or prescribed currency limit. This fact became a stimulus for every possible form of investigation, this despite claim by no less than the DILG secretary that it is normal procedure to get cash advances for official travels subject to liquidation. If this does not prove it easy enough to understand why it may have been possible that the cash advance is over and above the fare, per diem, and allowances prescribed, nonetheless, it behooves upon that officer who contracted such cash advance to make a final liquidation subject to disallowances if such expenses are those as otherwise not prescribed by law. So what is the beef?
Even before the Senate probe, Santiago already hinted of the possibility that the money came from ‘police patrons’ were it private money. In the same vein, if it were public money, the lady senator wants to be satisfied as to who authorized it. In short, some heads must roll on this simple incident of October 11 in Moscow. And in fact, Santiago has made ready citation of all possible constitutional violations arising from such an official travel by the PNP delegation. There are allayed fears that it might even result in administration sanctions being imposed on his retirement benefits. As things indicate, the questioned excess in currency as prescribed by Russian custom authorities will be fully accounted for and will be returned back to the organization, with not a euro less. But it may well have to be asked why our own Customs authorities failed to check how much in excess currency will be sort of ‘smuggled’ out of the country.
Point is, if the whole procedure is one of voluntary declaration, then it will always be subject to abuse at the person’s own risk. It passed our Customs, it did not pass Russia. From where I stand, it was a scheduled commitment owing to our membership to the Interpol. Our delegates are assumed to have participated very well in this global consortium. In other words, if we are to look at the other side of the equation, a lot has been achieved by the participation of our own law enforcement authorities regardless of the incident at Moscow. But we did make a fuss out of nothing at all. Maybe, we are beyond help – vulnerable as we do to the social contagion of too much media sensationalism.