A friend from the police force this week told me that 4 out of 38 local government units subpoenaed by the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to produce their annual executive budget, plans and disbursement vouchers from 2016 to date have ignored the PNP-CIDG demand for reasons known only to them.
Their actions actually have triggered suspicions they may be hiding something particularly when it comes to maintenance of so-called ‘ghost employees and projects.’ “ As whispered to me by my friend, they are puzzled by the failure of the 4 LGUs to answer their request for their city and municipal accountants to submit their annual executive budgets and investment plans as well as disbursement vouchers from 2016 to present.
This has sparked suspicions of course that the concerned accountants are acting on orders of their superiors. My friend has a valid question too: “What more if we address the subpoenas to the mayors, vice-mayors and their council members,” he told me.
I was told that should the concerned LGUs continue to ignore their subpoenas, they may be constrained to cite them for contempt and eventually file charges against them in court. “What’s wrong in asking them to furnish us copies of their financial records which are all considered public documents? Are we being intrusive when we merely exercise our right to information?” he asked.
I agree with him 101 percent. Last Monday, PNP chief, General Oscar Albayalde said that the Department of the Interior and Local Government headed by Secretary Ed Año merely ordered the PNP-CIDG headed by his mistah, lawyer-Director Roel Obusan to launch a financial investigation on the LGUs. The DILG has supervision over the PNP and all of its units including the CIDG which is the PNP’s main investigative unit.
“This is part of the anti-graft and corruption effort of the DILG. Ginamit lang ang CIDG sa kampanyang ito and I think the list was given to the CIDG,” said Gen. Albayalde. I learned that the DILG ordered the PNP-CIDG to investigate at least 38 cities and municipalities last August for possible irregularities in the disbursement of public funds.
Following the DILG order, Obusan sent subpoenas to the concerned LGUs requiring them to submit their financial records. Failure to comply with the CIDG demand will be deemed as an indirect contempt of court and would bring them more trouble, of course.
As I have previously written, only rogue public officials and criminals need to fear the subpoena power given to the PNP chief and the director and deputy director of the PNP-CIDG. Many of my friends, both active and retired security officials have told me that only corrupt politicians and persons engaged in criminal and terroristic activities will fear the subpoena power given to the police officials.
These personalities include politicians who have ordered the killings of their rivals and their supporters in order to cling to their post in every election, people who are engaged in money-laundering and other forms of embezzlement, people who are engaged in different acts of criminality and terrorism and others who have made it a habit to enrich themselves while in public office. In short, these are the law violators.
The subpoena power, if used diligently and expeditiously will also be a key in solving major criminal cases whose investigation are being delayed by concerned ‘persons of interest’ in the past to ignore letters of invitation from the PNP-CIDG since simple invitations can be ignore unlike a subpoena.
As a seasoned crime reporter, I can say without batting an eyelash that I have been privy to many major CIDG investigations in the past which were derailed by the lack of authority by the CIDG director to summon so-called ‘persons of interest.’ The most CIDG investigators can do is to write a letter of invitation to the ‘person of interest’ who has the option to either ‘honor or ignore’ the invitation.
As soon as the invitation is ignored, the CIDG in the past has no power to compel the ‘person of interest’ to appear in their office and submit himself to an investigation. The moneyed and influential ones usually will ignore the invitation and merely send their lawyers to speak for him/her. That’s the end of it.
This is also the very same reason why there are countless ‘cold cases’ in this country. I understand these ‘cold cases’ are mostly due to the failure of witnesses to testify or the ‘persons of interest’ to appear to a CIDG office for formal investigation. You can’t blame the CIDG and other unit for that since they also fear the prospect of being slapped with harassment cases with no one to help them in the future.
I have been privy to so many major cases wherein ‘persons of interest’ including elected or appointed public officials or rich businessmen opted to ignore ‘letters of invitation’ from the CIDG. As a result, ‘bitin ang imbestigasyon at matutulog na ang kaso.’
I really believe that there are enough safeguards to prevent possible abuses of the authority in the case of the subpoena powers given to the police. In fact, I believe that the PNP subpoena powers will effectively “add more teeth” to their mandate to enforce the law and find solution to criminal cases, more swiftly and decisively in the best interest of the Criminal Justice System as the PNP leadership had assured.
As my friend Roel Obusan had previously told me before the law was passed, ‘it’s the court which will check’ their subpoena powers. ““If we are wrong, if we are indiscriminate in issuing subpoenas in the future, the court will say so. There is check and balance here. Pinasumpa pa nga kami ni PNP chief sa harap ng media, tapos gagawa pa kami ng kalokohan,” he told me.
The PNP leadership also said that the PNP-CIDG will also have to follow the ‘chain of command’ in issuing subpoenas, meaning it is incumbent for the issuing authority which is the PNP-CIDG Director and his Deputy Director to seek permission from the PNP chief before issuing any subpoena.
Obusan also said that contrary to allegations made by government critics, the new subpoena powers given them are not ‘anti-poor’ but will target ‘well-learned and wealthy’ people—including city and municipal accountants and their superiors. The PNP-CIDG chief also said that the cases they will look into are likely limited to “high-profile” cases, and not small crimes. “Based from statistics, mas marami ang high-profile cases committed by wealthy or well-learned individuals. Itong crime on the streets kadalasan hindi high-profile cases ito. So this is projected more on well-learned and wealthy people. It does not discriminate, rich and poor, justice is for all, as they say, justice delayed is justice denied,” the 2-star police general explained to me.