Last week, there was a hearing in the Senate that brought about some shocking revelations. It all has to do with the financial dealings with the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), and their commanding personnel. Many people talk about corruption in the Philippines, and the testimony that came out put a little light on one area of corruption.
It all started late last week, Thursday if I correctly recall it, when the Senate was holding a hearing regarding a plea agreement for Retired AFP General Carlos Garcia. Garcia had been charged with crimes for allegedly accepting or stealing a lot of money from the AFP budget. However, Garcia cut a plea bargain with the Ombudsman’s office which allowed Garcia to return a small amount of the money in return for a guilty plea, and would not have to serve jail time. When news of the plea agreement came out, a lot of people were up in arms over the “sweetheart deal” that was given to Garcia. The Senate decided to hold hearings on the plea bargain to find out just why such a deal was given.
During the Senate hearings, retired Colonel George Rabusa let loose of allegations of a very corrupt system that is working inside the AFP. In fact, Rabusa’s testimony implicated a number of other people in wrongdoing, and has turned loose a number of new investigations into what is going on inside the AFP.
Basically, Rabusa said that there is a special budget that is given to the AFP Chief of Staff (the Chief of Staff is a position similar to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the USA). As part of this special, secret budget, the Chief of Staff allegedly gets personal allowance of P5M per month (in addition to his regular salary). He can spend the money on anything he wants. Additionally, the Chief of Staff’s wife and children also get money which they can use as they wish. The next kicker is that at the end of his term, when the Chief of Staff retires, he gets to keep any money that is left over in the fund. This money is his “pabaon” or “send off money” when he retires, allegedly. In addition to his retirement pension, he gets the left over money. According to Rabusa, retired General Angelo Reyes, who was Chief of Staff in the early part of the 2000’s received a send off of “at least P50M” and possibly more. So, between his P5M monthly allowance and his send off money, Reyes allegedly received over P100M in addition to his Chief of Staff Salary and his retirement benefits!
When Rabusa alleged that Reyes got P50M in send off money, he said that they piled up the cash on Reyes’ desk and that it was a huge pile of money, too much to carry (imagine, that is 50,000 pieces of P1,000 bills!). Because of the amount of money, Rabusa suggested to his boss and to Gen. Reyes that they convert the money into US Dollars so that it would be easier to transport, after all that would be only about US$1,000,000, which I suppose could fit into a briefcase. Upon Rabusa saying this, a Senator immediately asked both General Reyes and Rabusa’s boss if this was true, did the General receive P50M upon his retirement. Both men had the same response – “I don’t recall if that happened or not.” Oh, come on! I know that if somebody gave me P50M, even if it was 50 years ago, I would surely remember it! To me, that response really confirmed the charges.
Since the time that these allegations surfaced, a lot more has come out, mostly confirming the veracity of the story. Even another retired Chief of Staff who remained unnamed confirmed that things are done that way, although he basically said that he saw nothing wrong with it. Today, a government auditor testified that she saw such anomalies when she audited AFP accounts in the past.
This has all reminded me of a time several years ago when there was a case known as the “Euro Generals”. A big thing came up where a number of Philippine Generals had traveled to Moscow for official business. When they were coming home to the Philippines they were stopped at the airport in Moscow and were found to be carrying huge amounts of cash. As I recall they had more than 100,000 Euros in cash on them, which is not legal to travel across borders with. The money was confiscated from the Generals (and even the spouse of one General who was traveling with him), and the Generals were released to return to the Philippines. There was a huge uproar in the Philippines – where did the Generals get this money? Why are they traveling with such cash? There were Senate hearings and such, but after a while, as far as I know, the entire thing was forgotten, and nothing happened.
What is going on in the AFP? Where are they getting all of this cash from? How far up is there general knowledge of this (pun intended)? Will anything be done this time around? The answers are all up in the air. Do you think the charges are honest, or just something made up?