Puno wants cop held in Moscow to explain P7.6M cash

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 15 2008 03:48 PM | Updated as of Oct 16 2008 02:38 AM

More questions await former Philippine National Police (PNP) comptroller Eliseo dela Paz, who was held for questioning at the Moscow airport October 11 for carrying an excessive amount of money.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno told ABS-CBN News Channel on Wednesday that while he presumes everything was regular in Dela Paz's reported carrying of 120,000 euros (P7.68 million), the retired police official has to explain what really happened when he returns to the country.

“Obviously if there’s something out of the ordinary, we’re going to run after whoever it is,” Puno said.

He said the National Police Commission, which he heads, will look into Dela Paz’s case.

Dela Paz was supposed to board a flight back to the Philippines with his wife and Chief Superintendent Jaime Caringal, Zamboanga police regional commander, when he was caught by Russian customs authorities with a large amount of money.

Reports said Dela Paz was caught with 120,000 euros..

Puno clarified that Dela Paz was supposed to be carrying 105,000 euros (around P6.8 million), which was an “official cash advance, which is of record.”

He confirmed earlier claims by the PNP that the money was intended for contingency expenses by the eight-man police delegation to the 77th International Police Assembly in Saint Petersburg in Russia.

Caringal has said that Dela Paz has been released by the customs authorities after producing documents that prove the money came from the Philippines.

However, the process was taking too long because the customs agents want the wordings on the documents translated into the Russian language, the police official added.

In a press conference in Malacañang, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the documents submitted by Dela Paz to the customs authorities included a certification that the Philippine officials attended the Interpol assembly and that the money originated from the Philippines.

"There was a delegation that went to Russia. One of the officials was the so-called handler of the fund, disbursement officer. When they were accosted at the Moscow airport, they were able to present certificaitons, certifications that, indeed, they were on official mission to attend the Interpol. The second certification is that the money came from the philiplines and not sourced in Russia. This is for the satisfaction of the airport authorities of Russia," Ermita said.

Expensive Europe trip

Puno said the government usually allots millions of funds for the PNP delegates in Interpol meetings.

“That is an Interpol meeting. That was a meeting of all the police agencies in the world. We cannot allow our delegation to go there like beggars,” he said.

He said P2.3 million of the total cash amount of Dela Paz was allotted for the eight-man PNP delegation’s per diem and plane tickets.

The rest of the money was for contingency expenses for additional trips or errands for the delegation’s members.

Puno, however, said he was also confused about reports that Dela Paz was carrying 120,000 euros or 105,000 euros.

He said if Dela Paz had properly appropriated the cash advance given to him, he should have been carrying a much lesser amount assuming that he had given the other delegation members their share of the fund.

Puno said the regular practice was to provide the delegation partners their per diems before leaving for the Interpol meeting and to pre-pay their plane tickets.

[According to the website, www.cheapoair.com, a flight from Manila to Moscow and Moscow to Manila, costs between $1,383 (P62,235) to $1,856 (P83,520), depending on the number of stops. There is no direct flight. Assuming the more expensive plane fare, the total cost of the airfare for the eight-man PNP delegation is P668,160.]

“That is why I’m wondering about the amount that he was carrying. When he comes back, we will ask the auditors about the amount he was supposed to be carrying,” he said.

He added: “If it’s still 105,000 euros, there is something that needs to be explained.”

Puno said that so far, based on his communications with the Philippine Embassy in Russia, there is nothing irregular about Dela Paz’s case.

However, he said his office would still have to look at the facts before concluding Dela Paz’s innocence.

Forgetful

Caringal earlier said Dela Paz could have simply forgotten to declare the amount he was carrying when they entered Russia, which was supposed to be a usual procedure for people entering another country with large amounts of money.

"Iyon nga ang medyo naging lapse, hindi nai-declare. Hindi niya nalaman na dapat i-declare (That was the lapse, he failed to declare it. He didn't know that it should be declared)," Caringal said.

The police official said Dela Paz also forgot to tell him, being a member of the PNP delegation, that they have an available contingency fund.

“Ngayon nalaman na namin na (It’s only now that we found out) it’s for contingency. I don’t know the other reasons why he’s carrying that amount of money,” Caringal said

Ermita said the cash advance "needs to be accounted for." If the money was not used, it should be returned to the PNP.

He said the PNP officials held were then turned over to the Philippine ambassdor in Moscow.