'Balikatan funds misused'

- Jaime Laude -

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of National Defense has confirmed an ongoing probe into the alleged misuse of some P46 million for the 2007 RP-US Balikatan exercises, but said it is keeping its hands off the case of the whistle-blower – a female Navy officer – who is reportedly facing summary dismissal proceedings for another offense.

“I understand that she is now facing an investigation before the Philippine Navy’s Efficiency and Separation Board (ESB) and I will have to wait for the results of this probe before taking any action,” Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro Jr. said.

Teodoro was referring to the case of Lt. Senior Grade Nancy Gadian, who is under investigation for alleged insubordination and for lavish spending during her term as head of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom)’s Civil Military Operations based in Zamboanga City.

Gadian had claimed that her then immediate commander, former Westmincom chief retired Gen. Eugenio Cedo, misused the P46 million provided by the United States for the Balikatan exercises.

She claimed that of the amount only P2.7 million went to Balikatan’s CMO projects.

But Cedo, in an interview over radio dzRH yesterday, belied the allegations, saying he never benefited from the funds and instead accused Gadian of trying to get back at him because he ordered her investigated for her failure to account for the Balikatan funds in her care. Cedo retired in 2007.

However, military records showed that Gadian had been cleared of any accountability by the military’s internal audit on Balikatan funds, except for an unaccounted P2,500 in hotel expenses.

The charges of insubordination reportedly stemmed from her refusal to face a probe for her lavish spending in a hotel in Zamboanga City. It was not clear if the investigators were referring to the P2,500 unaccounted hotel expenses.

On the other hand, the Navy urged Gadian to formalize her charges of corruption against Cedo.

Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo asked Gadian to support her allegations against Cedo by filing appropriate charges.

“We urge her to come out in the open, formalize her complaint, adduce evidence by attaching documents that would substantiate her complaint or her claims of corruption and then the Navy is willing to help her clear her name,” he said.

“We are not saying that she is right or wrong. What is important here is for her to formalize her complaint because we will not conduct investigation based on mere allegations,” Arevalo added.

“It is also important for us to protect the name and integrity of one of our colleagues in the Navy,” he said, referring to Gadian.

“What we were saying is she is an officer. She has served the Navy for 12 years, so being an officer, we know that she understands what she is saying and she knows, she appreciates the repercussions of what she’s saying, so we urge her to come out in the open,” Arevalo added.

Arevalo maintained that the junior officer is still a member of the Navy, despite having filed her resignation last April 16, because her papers have yet to be evaluated.

He admitted that Gadian might also be held liable for airing her charges in public and not going through the Navy’s internal grievance mechanism.

Senate sets probe

Senate defense committee chairman Sen. Rodolfo Biazon vowed to have Gadian’s allegation investigated.

“Make your report official and address it to the Senate, to the chairman of the defense committee,” Biazon told Gadian in an interview over dzRH.

“If you can give me (an) official report, I will have a basis to act. If this is the fund from the Department of National Defense or the Armed Forces of the Philippines, this is within my jurisdiction,” Biazon, a former armed forces chief, said.

Gadian earlier said the funds that had been misused might have been bigger.

She also chided Armed Forces public information office chief Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner for allegedly ignoring her grievances and for wanting her dismissed for alleged malversation of funds.

“It’s always the little guy who gets fried, and the big guy is covered. From the very start I was prejudged,” she said in Filipino.

Earlier, Brawner said the Navy’s Efficiency and Separation Board started the proceedings against Gadian last Thursday but she did not appear.

Gadian also said in a radio interview that she feared for her safety after her exposé.

“I’m not discounting the possibility that something will happen to me,” she said. With Christina Mendez 










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