PNP tapped to probe alleged anomalies in SAP distribution, arrest local officials involved

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 5) — The Philippine National Police (PNP) has been tasked to look into allegations of anomalies regarding the distribution of emergency cash aid.

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) gave the instructions to the PNP following the arrest and detention of Kagawad Danilo Flores of Barangay San Agustin in Hagonoy, Bulacan on May 2.

“I am directing PNP units all over the country and also requesting the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to prioritize the investigation of graft and corruption cases against local officials on SAP distribution," said DILG Secretary Eduardo M. Año in a statement on Tuesday.

"Greedy and corrupt officials should have no place in the government," he said firmly. "They are carriers of a malignant virus that destroys the trust the people gave to them.”

Año condemned the acts of Flores as "disgraceful and downright shameful" saying public officials should be the ones helping the needy especially during a crisis.

Flores, 63, was caught on video telling recipients of the social amelioration program they would only receive P3,000 cash aid, while P3,500 would be given to the mayor for distribution to non-SAP beneficiaries. He was arrested for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and for violation of the Bayanihan Act. Hagonoy Mayor Raulito Manlapaz flatly denied Flores' claim.

Año warned that similar incidents will not be tolerated. He, nonetheless, assured due process to those who will be caught but emphasized that the law will be imposed especially especially during crisis.

DILG regional directors were also told to form provincial teams to investigate and "pursue administrative cases against these corrupt local officials that may lead to their suspension and dismissal from public office."

In a separate statement, the PNP said it would appoint investigators to gather evidence to build "a strong case" against local executives "for alleged graft and corruption in the distribution of government cash aid for the poor."

The statement said the PNP would work with the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to conduct the operations.

In his Tuesday briefing, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the government would make sure whistleblowers' indentities would be kept confidential, and should cases be pursused against officials, witnesses could be allowed to enter the witness protecton program.

"Pag-iingatan po natin 'yan, alam po namin na politics is always local, at dahil po diyan bibigyan po ng careful attention yung inyong identity," Roque said.

[Translation: We will be very conscious of that because we know politics is always local and because of that we will give careful attention to your identity.]

In a speech on Monday, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would offer a P30,000 reward to anyone who would give information on local government officials pocketing cash aid for poor families and other beneficiaries.

The Department of Social Welfare and Development previously warned local government officials involved in anomalies in cash aid distribution that they may be suspended if proven guilty.

DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista said the agency has set up a grievance redress system, where Filipinos may file complaints against erring local government officials.

Bautista urged the public to raise complaints when they see erring local officials, so that the national government may respond accordingly.