Friday, September 3, 2010

Police officer in ‘euro-generals’ scandal now a ‘general’

Police officer in ‘euro-generals’ scandal now a ‘general’*

By Alcuin Papa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:22:00 09/03/2010

MANILA, Philippines—A police officer implicated in the 2008 “euro generals” scandal has earned his first star despite facing charges before the Ombudsman.

Sr. Supt. Tomas Rentoy III has been promoted to Chief Superintendent—a one-star rank equivalent to a brigadier general in the military—according to a statement from the public information office of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on the latest round of promotions of senior police officials approved by President Benigno Aquino III.

Only last August, the Ombudsman filed graft charges against Rentoy, then chief of the budget division of the directorate for comptrollership, and the rest of the so-called “euro generals,” a group of police officials who were stopped at the Moscow airport in 2008 for carrying undeclared cash in excess of the allowable limit.

No bar to promotion

PNP Spokesperson Sr. Supt. Agrimero Cruz quoted Republic Act 9708 as providing that the “institution of a criminal action or complaint against a police officer shall not be a bar to promotion.”

The law also says that establishment of probable cause can make an officer ineligible for promotion. But since the case against Rentoy has not reached that stage, he is eligible for promotion, said Cruz. But if probable cause should be established, Rentoy’s promotion can be recalled, Cruz said.

Rentoy’s promotion as well as those of the other officers was based on the recommendation made by Interior Secretary and National Police Commission (Napolcom) Chair Jesse Robredo and PNP Chief Director General Jesus Verzosa. Robredo’s and Verzosa’s recommendation was in turn based on the evaluation of the PNP Senior Officers Placement and Promotion Board (SOPPB).

New star

Verzosa officiated at the pinning of Rentoy’s new star at a simple ceremony Thursday at Camp Crame that was closed to media.

Also promoted were Police Director George Piano, PNP Directorate for Information and Communication Technology Management (DICTM); Chief Supt. Alex Paul Monteagudo, Deputy Director Investigation and Detective Management; and Chief Supt. Elpidio de Asis, executive officer of the DICTM.

Vacancies were created with the retirement this year of more than 40 police generals.

Rentoy was not with the group of 12 police officials and three police officials’ wives who went to Russia in 2008 to attend an Interpol conference in St. Petersburg.

Approved funds

But he was charged, along with the traveling police officials, because he was one of those who approved the funds.

The officials who went to Russia were Police Director Eliseo de la Paz, the then PNP comptroller; Deputy Director General Emmanuel Carta, who headed the delegation; Deputy Director General Ismael Rafanan; Director Jaime Caringal; Director for Plans Romeo Ricardo; Director for Operations Silverio Alarcio Jr., Director for Human Resources and Doctrine Development German Doria and Supt. Elmer Pelobello.

They were joined by the wives of De la Paz, Caringal, Carta and Verzosa. The latter did not join the trip.

On the group’s way out, De la Paz, who was acting as the group’s disbursement officer, was briefly detained and questioned at the Moscow international airport for carrying 105,000 euros (P6.9 million) in cash. It was later revealed that De la Paz actually had P9.2 million with him.

De la Paz claimed that the money was a “cash advance” but Verzosa said the amount was meant to purchase espionage equipment but was illegally released.

In October 2008, Verzosa ordered the filing of criminal charges against De la Paz, Rentoy and two other officers. But he said that Rentoy would not be suspended or relieved.

‘Cleared by PNP’

In 2009, then PNP chief Avelino Razon, who had approved the trip, said he did not know why the group had to bring such a huge amount, saying he only approved the amount of P2.3 million for their travel expenses.

The police officials were later asked to return the travel funds. In early 2009, the PNP leadership “cleared” the euro generals after the entire amount was returned.

Those charged by the Ombudsman were: De la Paz, Pelobello, Carta, Rafanan, Ricardo, Doria, Alarcio and Caringal.

Also charged were Razon, Supt. Samuel Rodriguez and Chief Supt. Orlando Pestaño. The three were, like Rentoy, not part of the Russian trip but were involved in the approval process.

They were all charged with violations of the Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Passport Law, and the Revised Penal Code for falsification of public documents.

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