Thursday, February 10, 2011

Corruption In the AFP: A Can Of Worms

Retired Colonel George Rabusa, former budget officer of the AFP, has been presented by Jinggoy Estrada as witness to the anomalies committed in the AFP with regards to the disbursements of monies to retiring and incoming Chiefs of Staff. Col. Rabusa is a boon to the efforts of the Senate to delve deep into the alleged corruption in the military establishment. Revelations coming from a person who was in the midst of all the alleged claims of anomalous cash transfers could furnish valuable information to aid the lawmakers in their legislative functions.
There were a few who speculated that the former budget officer of the Armed Forces was brought into the inquiry by Jinggoy Estrada as a way of getting at his father’s, the former President Erap, detractors and political foes. Regardless of the colonel’s motives, his testimony is deemed pivotal in the Senate probe.

Col. Rabusa, who confessed to have profited from the corruption in the military said that he has lost all that he had amassed during his time as an assistant the AFP Comptroller from failed businesses and in an expensive lost mayoralty bid in his home province. He says that he is now without much resource and that he suffers from the effects of a stroke, the signs of which are apparent from his demeanour. He said that unlike before, those who have received the fraudulent monies from him have been unresponsive to his pleas for assistance now that he needed them most.
Col. Rabusa, in his sworn statements detailed his participation in the unlawful transfer of cash to outgoing and incoming chiefs of staff as what is popularly known now as “pabaon” and “pasalubong”. Other cash recipients other than the retiring Chiefs of Staff were also mentioned.
His participation in the transactions was in the performance of his position as a budget officer who directly reported the AFP’s Comptroller and did per the instruction of the Comptroller to produce the purported monies and in some cases did the physical preparation (bundling, packaging of the cash sometimes with the help of his subordinates in the office) of the money to be given to the named recipients. Col. Rabusa admitted to have profited from his role as some of the recipients of the cash tended to be generous to him upon delivery of the money. He did not say whether he himself dipped his fingers into the PCDA honeypot.
His admission of having profited from the illegal transactions made him a “whistle blower” and earned him the right to be protected by the witness protection program. Rabusa, in his statements, provided the pry that opened the lid of a can of worms which now cast shadows on the integrity not only of the AFP but others such as the justice system (trial courts, Sandigan Bayan, the Ombudsman), the government audit system, the involved banking institutions and some members of the lawmaking houses who purportedly were part of the action. The extension of this to other offices and officers in government is not far-fetched once linkages are exposed in the course of the investigation. Senator Trillanes’ innuendoes hint at the culpability of the then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
As could be expected, there is no physical evidence and proof that the transfer of the monies from the AFP’s budget office were ever made to the generals and the congressman ever took place. Understandably, anomalous deals are without records (paper, electronic, etc.) in acknowledgement. Col. Rabusa, in his claims would point the Comptrollers (Ligot and Garcia) as the ones who ordered him to source the cash. Col. Rabusa revealed that the source of money would come from a nebulous account called Provision for Command Directed Activities (PCDA), a sort of catchall account that is fed by the budgets coming from other units of the AFP and possibly other diversions coming from external donor sources.
Through the revelations of Col. Rabusa we now know of the system in the AFP that fostered the corruption in the military establishment. There is incontrovertible evidence that corruption existed(s) in the AFP and that the lawmakers can enact laws to plug the legal gaps and other weaknesses in the system that make the corruption possible. However, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that would link any of the Chiefs of Staff and other named recipients of this shameless largesse except from the statements of Col. Rabusa. He claims that he sourced and prepared the monies and gave them to the comptroller (Ligot and Garcia). There were times that he admitted to, that at the order of the Comptroller, he brought the money himself to the recipients. In his statement involving ex congressman Pichay, he said that at the behest of the comptroller he prepared P500,000.00 in three tranches to be turned over to Pichay when he comes around. What proof do those statements have that the alleged recipients actually received their cash packages? All the generals and the congressman deny Rabusa’s allegations. Who are we to believe? Is it possible that Rabusa himself or perhaps the Comptrollers (Ligot and Garcia) pocketed portions or most of it into what Senator Cayetano referred to as “bukol”.
Thus far, Rabusa’s statements have been fodder to malignments and demeaning tirades coming from the thuggish behaviour of some lawmakers which are causing distemper to the guests of the inquiry who suddenly found themselves being pilloried in a telecasted coverage. They are still presumed innocent and should not have been subjected to the scathing, harsh and cruel run of the gauntlet that destroys human dignity and leaves an indelible stain on everyone in the guests’ family. Circumspection is expected from the holders of high positions in our government. Punkish behaviour cannot be condoned and that the more senior and civilized members of the honourable houses should counsel and chastise those members who do not know any better.

The only way the government can run after the true scoundrels is through cases of unexplained wealth where there are paper trails and other documentary evidences of ill gotten wealth and other wrong doings. We seem to be getting good headway with some the forfeiture and unexplained wealth suits filed against some of the suspects. For sure government should exert effort in recovering the loot taken from its coffers. It should go beyond prevailing sentiment and should dispense with emotional courtesies. The people’s money should be traced and recovered. There are legal blocks and manipulations that have slowed down the wheels of justice; plea bargain agreements, pending Sandigan rulings and other legal stalls. With the high key exposure of the cases our people are well apprised of the proceedings. People would insist on nothing else but the bringing to justice all the erring personalities and the recovery of the plundered people’s money.

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