AFP general using soldiers as construction workers?
Jaime Laude (The Philippine Star) - July 16, 2013 - 6:56pm

MANILA, Philippines - A military general is under investigation for allegedly using soldiers assigned to his office based at Camp Aguinaldo in the construction of his three-storey residential house at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Village Officers, Inc. (AFPOVAI) in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

The military probe on Brig. Gen. Dante Costes, commander of Communication, Electronics Information System Service-Armed Forces of the Philippines (CEISSAFP), stemmed from a letter-complaint by “concerned citizens” reaching the office of AFP chief, Gen. Emmanuel Bautista, a copy of which was obtained by the media.

“The Chief of Staff (Gen. Emmanuel Bautista) is already aware of the issue and has taken steps to address it. He has already recommended the complaint to the proper investigation body. We will make sure that this will undergo due process for the benefit of those concerned,” AFP Public Affairs Office (PAO) chief, Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala.

Zagala issued the statement in reference to the allegations contained in the letter complaint against Costes accused of using 20 to 30 soldiers as laborers in the ongoing construction of his house.

In an unsigned but detailed letter-complaint, the group informed Bautista that the soldiers deployed to build Costes’ house are detailed with different units of the CEISSAFP.

“Is it right for the soldiers to abandon their mandated military tasks to serve the personal interest of Gen. Costes as his construction workers? We are all confused because as soldiers we cannot question orders given to us,” the group said in the letter complaint.

The group behind the letter also informed Bautista that they could not air their grievances to their immediate superiors because most of the officers currently assigned to the CEISSAFP are beholden and controlled by Costes, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class of 1980.

The complainants mentioned to Bautista that aside from Costes’ brother David, who is serving as his architect, the general also designated his 2nd Group Commander, Lt. Col.  Arthur Pulmano, as his construction engineer and a certain Lieutenant Commander Dela Cruz, executive officer of the CEISSAFP’s 3rd group, as deputy engineer.

Acting as foreman in the ongoing AFPVAOI construction are CEISSAFP's sergeant majors, Marine Senior Master (MSM) and Army Chief Master Sergeant (CMS) Espinoza, the complainants said in the letter.

It added that aside from inherent unit members, Costes allegedly tapped the services of soldier-students to assist in the construction of his house.

“For now sir, we could no longer depend on anybody here at our unit to look after our welfare. Even the command’s Provost Marshal the command Inspector General are doing nothing to address and stop these anomalies. We are hoping that this illegal practice within the military service is soon addressed,” the complainants said.

The unnamed complainants said the AFP leadership can easily validate their complaints by simply sending a team to AFPVAOI to see for themselves the progress of work done by the soldiers at Costes’ residential house.

The soldiers, required to wear civilian clothes when deployed to the construction site, would depart from the CEISSAFP headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. aboard the military-issued white FB L300 Mitsubishi van with license plates XCW 383, which gets gasoline supply from the CEISSAFP’s fuel depot.

The complainants also urged Bautista to look into the budget allocation of the CEISSAFP, especially intended for its fuel and oil allocations.

“Ito po sir ay maliwanag na corruption, kasi mga resources, tao at oras ng empleyado ng pamahalaan dito sa CEISSAFP ay nagagamit sa personal na pangangailangan ng nag-iisang tao lamang na matagal nang nagpakasasa sa position, pera at resources ng pamahalaan taliwas sa gustong mangyari at slogan ng ating mahal na Pangulong Benigno S. Aquino Jr. na Daang Matuwid,” the complainants added.

Zagala, meanwhile challenged the anonymous complainants to come out in the open and formalize their complaint through the AFP grievance system.

“This is for the benefit of the organization. If you have a complaint against someone or an activity within the organization, you can help by using the grievance system that is already established in the AFP. If you don’t trust your immediate commander go and air your concern to the AFP chief or to the AFP’s sergeant major so that we can resolve issues and file complaints and make the necessary actions not only to go against the people with issues but to improve the organization,” Zagala said.

As for Costes’ case, Zagala said that the official will go through due process and that he will be given a chance to defend himself.

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