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Dela Paz apologizes for Moscow mess

Posted by Abi Kwok on October 21, 2008


Declares willingness to be probed

By Abigail Kwok
First Posted 13:13:00 10/21/2008


MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 3) A retired police comptroller who stirred controversy with his brief detention in Russia for carrying millions of pesos’ worth of undeclared currency has apologized for the “untoward incident” he acknowledged brought “international embarrassment” to the country.

“I apologize deeply to our people and our government for the untoward incident in Moscow International Airport,” said Eliseo dela Paz shortly after his arrival Tuesday from Moscow, where he and his wife were held by Russian customs officials who found millions of pesos worth of euros in their possession as they were on their way back to Warsaw, Poland.

Dela Paz read a two-page statement and entertained only three questions from the media.

In the statement, he said he was willing to face any investigation into the incident. The Office of the Ombudsman and the Senate have declared their own separate investigations while a resolution for a similar probe has been filed in the House of Representatives.

Dela Paz said will face the Senate probe because “I have nothing to hide.”

“I rest my case on the fact that the Moscow authorities allowed me last week to return to our country as they have ascertained, based on the documents presented to them, that the money in my possession was acquired legally and was for a legitimate purpose,” he said.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) said it was “glad” about Dela Paz’s apology and said his willingness to submit to any inquiry “of his full cooperation and transparency to any inquiry.”

Dela Paz also apologized to the other members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) delegation to the 77th Interpol Assembly at St. Petersburg in Russia last week “for having put them in an awkward position as a result of my misstep.”

“[The incident] last week touched off an international embarrassment to our country. I apologize,” said Dela Paz

The retired comptroller took full responsibility for filing to declare P6.9 million worth of euros, supposedly part of the PNP delegation’s cash advance for expenses at the Interpol conference.

He insisted that the P6.9 million was a cash advance and not a contingency fund, as other ranking police officers had earlier described the money.

The amount, Dela Paz said, was taken from the P10-million “cash advance bonded” authorized by him as the then PNP comptroller.

Dela Paz gave curt replies to the few questions allowed at the press conference. Pressed for more answers, he said: “Pwedeng tama na yon [Can that be enough]?”

He also did not mention how much of the cash advance was left in his possession before he had it wire-transferred to the PNP bank account. He only said the amount would be included in his report.

In his prepared statement, Dela Paz said he had no excuse for the “lapse” of failing to declare the money he was carrying.

“I offer no excuse for that lapse and can only say that I regret having been remiss in my obligation as a departing visitor from] Russia in inadvertently failing to report to airport police authorities the amount of cash in my possession at that time. That amount, which the authorities have found in my possession, was the cash advance for the use of the PNP delegation to the just-concluded 77th Interpol general assembly in St. Petersburg,” he said.

Dela Paz also expressed “shock” over the high expenses in Russia, which he said was one of the reasons why they had to bring a “standby revolving fund.”

“Russia is an expensive country to be in, especially for transients or non-residents. It is a shock for tourists to find out that the rates in Moscow and St. Petersburg are just as expensive or even costlier than those in first-class cities elsewhere,” he said.

“It is not easy being on alien territory with nowhere to get immediate financial succor from when an official delegation is confronted by such contingencies as medical emergencies involving convention delegates, or such exigencies as impromptu networking and meetings with fellow delegates from other countries on the sidelines, or at the close, of a global gathering. And the risks for such unforeseen developments become even greater when the event is as prestigious and the top-rank participants as numerous as those at that yearly general assembly of Interpol,” Dela Paz said.

But he said that he will properly liquidate all their expenses and assured media the PNP delegation had exercised “prudence” in spending the multimillion peso cash advance.

Chief Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome, PNP spokesman, said “[Dela Paz] is required to submit a liquidation report of expenses of the PNP delegation that attended the recent Interpol conference in Russia.” 

“In the next few days he will clear these cash advances with the PNP resident auditor and accountant,” Bartolome said.

But Dela Paz acknowledged that liquidating expenses “is not a reason for unwise or unnecessary spending. I assure you that while our standby fund may seem large by the average standards, prudence had governed our expenditures, and the liquidation report that I will be submitting soon for scrutiny and approval by official auditors will bear that out.”

Dela Paz arrived 1:08 p.m. Tuesday via Singapore Airlines and went through normal security procedures.

With an earlier report from Jerome Aning, Inquirer


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