MANILA, APRIL 22, 2011 (TRIBUNE) By Mario J. Mallari and Benjamin B. Pulta - Exposés of corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines by credible AFP whistle-blowers appear to be irritating to the military brass, as a ranking official of the AFP yesterday blasted the "whistle-blowers" in the alleged massive corruption in the military organization during the previous administration, accusing these whistle-blowers of snitching and putting the military institution in a bad light, just to protect themselves, also implying they themselves benefited from the past misdeeds.

In his assumption speech, newly installed AFP-Civil Relations Service (CRS) chief Brig. Gen. Eduardo del Rosario, however, stressed that the present military leadership is all-out for the truth.

"Those who will be found guilty must be punished to the full extent of the law," said Del Rosario who replaced newly promoted

AFP Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations (J3) Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. as CRS chief.

"However, some have observed that the alleged whistle blowers are now coming out just to protect themselves. But if they will surrender first everything that they have stolen, and then make a confession in Congress or in court, only then that we can be assured of fair, honest and sincere dispensation of justice," added Del Rosario.

Del Rosario, however, did not name names.

It will be recalled that retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa revealed the alleged massive corruption in the military organization during his time as AFP budget officer when suspected plunderer retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia was the AFP comptroller from 2000 to 2003.

Rabusa accused the late Angelo Reyes of receiving more than P100 million in slush funds during his incumbency as AFP chief. Rabusa claimed he personally delivered P10 million a month to Reyes.

Aside from Reyes, Rabusa also accused three other former AFP chiefs, namely, Diomedio Villanueva, Roy Cimatu and Efren Abu, of pocketing at least P300 million. He already filed plunder charges against the three, along with 14 others, including Garcia and his immediately predecessor retired Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot.

Seven active officers, led by incumbent AFP-Management Fiscal Office (MFO) chief Brig. Gen. Benito de Leon, were also named among the respondents.

During one of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearings, Rabusa himself admitted benefitting from the irregularity, receiving hefty millions during his time as budget officer.

Aside from Rabusa, his former deputy budget officer, Air Force Col. Antonio Lim, also appeared before the Senate and corroborated Rabusa's allegations. Retired Lt. Col. Romeo Mateo and civilian Perla Valerio, who served at Rabusa's office as budget officer, also supported Rabusa's claims.

Mateo, during one of the Senate hearings, also admitted benefitting from the irregularity. However, Rabusa and his former subordinates sought immunity from suits before testifying before the Senate.

Del Rosario also branded as "unfair and inaccurate" the recent Pulse Asia survey showing that most Filipinos believed that the AFP is the most corrupt government agency.

"It was simply triggered by the nationwide coverage of Mr. Rabusa's expose. I am sure that about 99.9 percent of all military officers and enlisted personnel were not involved in this massive corruption and yet, the whole organization suffers," Del Rosario said.

"This demoralizes AFP's foot soldiers, airmen and sailors who are selflessly working hard and even willing to give the ultimate sacrifice in our quest to preserve democracy and for others to live in peace," he added.

The new AFP-CRS chief also stressed that the alleged corruption in the military organization is a "thing of the past."

"The alleged sins of corruption by a few ranking military officers and their accomplices that happened a decade ago, is not the sin of today of about 125,000 soldiers who are honorably rendering their services nationwide," Del Rosario explained.

Prior to his appointment as AFP-CRS chief, Del Rosario served as Internal Auditor and Civil Affairs Group commander of the Army; 73rd Infantry Battalion (IB) commander; Task Force Davao chief, and commander of the Army's 803rd and 1003rd Brigades.

The Department of Defense, however, has done nothing by way of the promised probe on the corruption in the military.

Not even the diversion of the fuel fund, a snew scandal, used by the military has gotten anywhere.

Meanwhile, investigation panels have been formed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to hear the separate criminal complaints for alleged misuse of funds against former military generals of the AFP and executives of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA).

Speaking with reporters, De Lima said she has instructed Prosecutor General Claro Arellano to head the preliminary investigation into the plunder charges filed by former military budget officer Rabusa against eight military generals of the AFP, seven of whom have already retired, and several other military officers, before the DoJ for allegedly pocketing more than P2 billion of the military's funds.

De Lima also designated Senior Assistant State Prosecutors Rosalina Aquino and Aileen Marie Gutierrez and Assistant State Prosecutor Edna Valenzuela to a conduct preliminary investigation on the complaint filed by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, in his concurrent capacity as member of the Monetary Board, the policy-making body of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

Purisima filed criminal charges against LWUA Chairman Prospero Pichay Jr. and board members Renato Velasco, Susana Dumlao Vargas, Bonifacio Mario Pena Sr., and Daniel Landingin for their alleged involvement in the anomalous acquisition of a thrift bank that resulted in losses for the government.

"My instruction is to dispose that case expeditiously. I went over the complaint over the weekend and it is really substantive…," De Lima noted.

The DoJ is expected to summon the respondents to answer the charges lodged against them.

In his complaint, Rabusa identified retired military generals Jacinto Ligot, Carlos Garcia, Diomedio Villanueva, Roy Cimatu, Hilario Atendido, Efren Abu, Epineto Logico and Brig. Gen. Benito de Leon, who is still in the active service, as among those who amass ill-gotten wealth out of the AFP's funds.

Also charged were military colonels Cirilo Tomas Donato, Roy Devesa, Emerson Angulo, Gilbert Gapay, Robert Arevalo, (retired) Ernesto Paranis and Philippine Navy Capt. Kenneth Paglinawan, former accounting division chief Generoso del Castillo, and former AFP Intelligence Service' resident auditor Divina Cabrera.

Rabusa accused the the respondents of violation Section 2 of Republic 7080, otherwise known as "An Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Plunder" which punishes by reclusion perpetua "any officer, who by himself or in connivance with members of his family, relatives, business associates, subordinates or other persons…acquires ill gotten wealth in the aggregate amount of at least P50 million."

He said the respondents connived and benefitted in the long-time practice of converting multi-billion funds intended for projects of various units of the AFP including its intelligence division into personal use of the respondents.

The accused, based on the complaint, endorsed the acquisition of a cash-strapped thrift bank, Express Savings Bank Inc. (EXSBI), which cost the government P480 million.

Purisima specifically accused LWUA the respondents of violating the provisions of Central Bank Act, Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and malversation of public fund for the purchase of the bank.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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