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Balikatan whistle-blower given 48 hours to surface

- Jaime Laude -

MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has ordered embattled Navy Lt. Senior Grade Nancy Gadian to report back for duty within 48 hours or face dishonorable dismissal.

“We are giving Lt. Nancy Gadian 48 hours starting 10 a.m. (yesterday) for her to voluntarily submit herself or present herself in any Navy or military installation for us to be able to account for her whereabouts,” Navy spokesman Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo announced.

Arevalo said Gadian’s failure to report back for duty would mean she would be recommended for dropping from the roster upon approval of President Arroyo.

He said Gadian, currently AWOL (absent without official leave), would forfeit all benefits from her 12-year military service if she refuses to report back for duty.

Arevalo warned the Navy would be forced to enforce military discipline on Gadian, and she could be declared as a deserter.

He, however, appealed to Gadian to come out and submit herself to the military process to clear her name after she was ordered arrested for desertion and insubordination.

Malacañang also urged Gadian to submit herself for investigation.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Gadian could still be considered in active service since the AFP has yet to act on her supposed resignation.

Ermita said it was proper for her superiors to demand her appearance.

Gadian is facing the Navy’s Summary Efficiency Board (ESB) on charges of insubordination and desertion.

Her superior, now retired Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, had ordered Gadian to account for the missing P2.3-million Balikatan funds released to her to finance the 2007 Balikatan’s civil-military projects in Western Mindanao.

Gadian served as civil military relations officer under Cedo during the Balikatan exercises in Mindanao.

Gadian, however, accused Cedo, among other officials, of pocketing part of the P46 million allotted for the joint military exercises. Cedo has since denied Gadian’s claims.

The AFP said Gadian went AWOL when the controversy broke out and has since been dropped from the rolls for failing to report back to duty after her 30-day vacation lapsed last April 21.

Arevalo said the AFP has taken cognizance of the allegations made by Gadian and will give her the chance to explain.

“The Navy is not a threat to her life and liberty. We are seriously taking cognizance of the allegation,” Arevalo said.  

Navy chief Vice Admiral Ferdinand Golez and AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Victor Brawner guaranteed Gadian and her family would be protected if she comes forward to support her allegations.

AFP chief Gen. Victor Ibrado also warned Gadian could be technically arrested.

“If she is seen by other soldiers then she can be arrested technically and brought back to the Philippine Navy,” Ibrado said.

Ibrado said the allegations of Gadian could be without basis but he assured her of protection if she would turn herself in.

Brawner said the AFP would assist Gadian in filing the charges.

“That is our request, if she comes out, file the formal complaint, state the names of those persons whom she is alleging to have malversed the funds,” he said.

Brawner said the process begins when Gadian comes out of hiding and files the formal complaint.

“We will launch an investigation because the one we conducted had reached a dead end. From our records, we saw that everything was in order,” Brawner said.

“We are still open to any investigation. We are not hiding anything,” he said.

‘We returned it’

Brawner also explained the P244-million fund of the Balikatan RP-US joint military exercises in 2006 and 2007 that was reportedly unaccounted for had been returned to the government through the national treasury.

Brawner said the report attributed to the Commission on Audit (COA) stating that the fund is still missing and unaccounted for is “inaccurate.”

“These funds are either remitted back to national treasury or reclassified by COA and deposited to the LBP (Land Bank of the Philippines), hence the reduction from P181 million in 2006 to P62 million in 2007,” he said.

Ibrado also assured lawmakers yesterday that the fund is still intact.

The AFP chief clarified before members of the Commission on Appointments that the unused funds for the Balikatan exercises total only P181 million.

Ibrado denied reports of the P244-million total. He also said the fund remained intact and no mishandling was committed.

Ibrado explained these funds were reimbursements from the UN, investments of US forces coming to the country and the use of Philippine facilities.

“There are also PNP (Philippine National Police) licensing fees, we get part of that and the excess pay and allowances of civilian employees. Sometimes we get an excess and it goes back to the national treasury,” he said.

Ibrado said the AFP deposited the funds in authorized banks.

“Only P62 million of the P181 million will be remitted back to national treasury. The P244 million figure that was mentioned was the sum of P181 million and P62 million. There was a mistake,” Ibrado remarked.

President Arroyo has ordered a speedy and thorough investigation into the issue.

Ermita said Mrs. Arroyo has tasked Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro to form a three-man panel led by Undersecretary Alberto Valenzuela to investigate the COA report that detailed the AFP failed to remit the P244.7 million in unused funds for the military exercises to the National Treasury.

He said the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC) would also conduct its own investigation in close coordination with the Department of National Defense.

“We will remind them (investigating bodies) to address the impression that there is whitewash. We will see to it that these things don’t happen,” Ermita said. – With Aurea Calica, Paolo Romero

AFP

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