THE Philippine National Police has scored on its crackdown on so-called ‘ghost pensioners’ following the identification of a widow of a deceased policeman who intentionally did not report the death of the latter in 2019 in order to claim his pension for a year which amounted to more than P500,000. officials told the Journal Group yesterday.
According to Police Retirement and Benefits Administration Service or PNP-PRBS director, Colonel Arthur V. Bisnar, they have filed criminal charges against Mrs. Lucila de Mesa, the widow who was found to have continued to receive her husband’s monthly pension although he had died on February 18, 2019. “By deliberately misinforming the PNP about the death of her retired policeman-husband, this woman managed to collect her husbands’ monthly pension for more than a year,” said Bisnar.
According to the official, the widow managed to claim her late husband’s pension totaling P535,355.93 from the time of his death until the fiasco was discovered by PRBS investigators.
PNP chief, General Archie Francisco F. Gamboa, said following the discovery of the anomaly, he wants stiffer penalties imposed on fake pensioners and claimants for overpayment as part of the national monitoring and accounting of pensioners program of the PNP leadership.
According to Bisnar, suspect de Mesa is still at-large although she would be placed on jail once the court issues a warrant for her arrest.
Bisnar said they filed the criminal charges against de Mesa before the Q.C. Prosecutor’s Office after their investigation showed that she continued to claim and receive monthly pensions for her husband, the late Sergeant Fortunato Gomez de Mesa who compulsorily retired from the police service on September 19, 1989.
The official said after nearly three decades as a PNP pensioner, the monthly pension of the retired policeman was supposed to stop in March 2019 because of his death. However, his wife failed to report her husband’s demise.
“From the time the pension should have stopped until May 2020, the suspect had withdrawn a total amount of P535,355.93 conferring to the certificate issued by the PNP Finance Service,” Bisnar said.
Gen. Gamboa has instructed the PNP-PRBS and PNP Finance Service to recover the overpayments claimed by de Mesa and to monitor the case as it is a significant step in the PNP’s effort to uncover similar acts and to penalize unaccounted pension claimants.
The PNP chief this year ordered a nationwide accounting of police pensioners to ensure that ‘ghost retirees’ in its master list will be stricken off and prevent fake monthly retirement claims which in the past had caused the government to lose multi-millions a month.
The accounting targeted the remaining 21,223 PNP pensioners who were not able to update their records in 2019 and failed to avail of the initial Nationwide Accounting with Biometrics from February 27 to March 13 this year and the ensuing updating held from March 14 to last May 11.
According to Gen. Gamboa, he has ordered Bisnar to modify and streamline the process of accounting of PNP pensioners to fit the New Normal; adhere to the community quarantine guidelines and protocols of the Inter-Agency Task Force in the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases and most importantly, protect the pensioners who belong to the most ‘at-risk and vulnerable’ age groups.
The nationwide accounting was conducted as part of the PNP’s continuing effort to strike from its pensioners’ list so-called ‘ghost retirees’ which during the time of the previous Aquino administration is said to have caused the Aquino government up to P250 million a month due to fake retirement claims.
As a result, the PNP leadership then launched a no-nonsense program to purge its master list of pensioners of illicit entries and come up with an updated accounts of legitimate PNP retirees, widows and minor children of deceased police personnel and other beneficiaries.
Previous anomalies pertaining to ‘ghost pensioners’ at the PNP during the Aquino presidency led in the filing of criminal charges before the Office of the Ombudsman against several active police officers in the aftermath of investigations which led in the identification of some 2,000 ‘ghost retirees.’
It turned out during those days that the syndicate fabricated the names of ‘ghost pensioners’ who also receive pensions of from 50 to 90 percent of their base pay depending on their number of years in the service.
The scam was discovered in 2011 when the PNP investigated 30 fake widows who showed up at Camp Crame and tried to claim the pensions of dead police officers. The scam involved falsifying PNP documents and impersonating the widows of deceased policemen in order to collect their retirement benefits.