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Opinion

EDITORIAL - System of perks

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If someone is openly accused of pocketing public funds, the amount of which could warrant his indictment for plunder, the expected reaction from an innocent man is to tell the accuser he is a shameless liar. Instead Angelo Reyes – given the chance by the Senate, upon his insistence, to directly challenge his accuser – asked if he had ever demanded money, and if he had ever been swapang or ganid, meaning greedy, when he was the military chief of staff.

What could be inferred from that emotional scene between Reyes and his accuser, Lt. Col. George Rabusa, was that in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, if you don’t ask and don’t tell when it comes to the source of funds, it’s OK to receive P50 million in cash, converted into greenbacks for a lighter load, as pabaon or sendoff gift, or P10 million as welcome money as alleged in the case of two other former AFP chiefs, Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu.

Reyes’ 2001 defection to the EDSA 2 forces, together with the major service commanders and then defense chief Orlando Mercado, sealed the downfall of Joseph Estrada for corruption. The other day it was Estrada’s son and co-accused in his plunder case, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who presented Rabusa to the Senate Blue Ribbon committee.

Even if an element of revenge was evident at that hearing, Rabusa, a retired military budget officer, presented a compelling story of massive corruption in the AFP. And Reyes, who could have used a lawyer at the hearing, did not help his cause when he said he merely inherited the system, in apparent reference to the perks enjoyed by ranking military officers.

Those perks, revealed in sordid detail by Rabusa, could cause dangerous resentment within the ranks. The Philippine military is one of Asia’s poorest, dependent on dole-outs from allies particularly the United States. The AFP lacks everything from transport planes and helicopters to naval patrol vessels and decent housing for ordinary soldiers. In areas of armed conflict, soldiers complain about substandard boots and the lack of ammunition and medical supplies. Stories of multimillion-peso perks for top AFP officers can only cause resentment and demoralization within the ranks.

That resentment affects the performance of the AFP and can spell trouble in a country with a history of coup attempts and military-backed uprisings. The administration must quickly implement the necessary reforms to end for good the system of perks that Reyes said he merely inherited.

vuukle comment

ARMED FORCES OF THE PHILIPPINES

DIOMEDIO VILLANUEVA AND ROY CIMATU

GEORGE RABUSA

INSTEAD ANGELO REYES

JINGGOY ESTRADA

JOSEPH ESTRADA

ORLANDO MERCADO

RABUSA

REYES

SENATE BLUE RIBBON

UNITED STATES

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