Expanded probes on AFP perks urged

PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III vowed over the weekend to look into the tradition of giving huge cash gifts to incoming and retiring chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The President who won a big win in the last elections under the anti-corruption program was reportedly irked by revelations made by retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa who said former military chief Angelo Reyes had received P50 million in send off money or “pabaon” when he retired in 2001.

Rabusa told members of Senate Blue Ribbon committee the distribution of hefty amounts to top military officials was a “tradition” in the AFP. The committee is currently investigating the plea bargaining agreement between former military comptroller Carlos Garcia and government prosecutors.

Rabusa also said Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu also received P10 million each as welcome gifts when they assumed as chief of staff of the AFP.

The President said before he acts on the issue he would wait first for the report of Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin regarding the revelation made by Rabusa during the Blue Ribbon hearing.

The President vowed to exert best effort to recover these supposed gifts. He said Gazmin has created a panel to investigate all issue Rabusa raised during the Senate hearing.

Ordinary people on the street were shocked by Rabusa’s revelations for being extremely unacceptable the practice of giving send off gifts to incoming and retiring chiefs of staff and other high-ranking military officials.

On the other hand, lawmakers were surprised by Rabusa’s testimony. Sen. Franklin Drilon said he was surprised by Rebusa’s revelation.

Sen. Francis Escudero urged the Blue Ribbon Committee to expand the investigation to include all former AFP chiefs “because if it is really an going tradition, it must be nipped in the bud.”

Sen. Francis Pangilinan also asked the government to dig deeper to Rabusa’s expose.

Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, who served as Armed Forces chief, wanted Rabusa to clarity what he meant by “tradition” of giving multi-million “send off” cash gifts to retiring general.

He said there were 21 Armed Forces chiefs since 1986. “So when this supposed tradition start? He asked.

The “tradition” of giving cash gifts in the millions to incoming and retiring AFP top brass must be stopped if it is really true. It is not only gross violations of existing laws but highly immoral and condemnable. Our hat off to Colonel Rabusa.

If it were not for his courage and initiative this illegal practice will continue unhampered to the prejudice of the people or the taxpayers.

This is another challenge to President Aquino. His adherence to the principle and campaign slogan called “Walang Mahirap Kung Walang Kurap” will be put to test.

Using all the resources of government in gathering evidence, we do not have doubt Aquino can run after these generals and prove that their wealth is ill-gotten.

In a related development, President Aquino said he was already in the process of interviewing candidates for the next AFP chief. He asked each of the candidates how they were planning to stop corruptions as he vowed he would make sure that everyone in the AFP would realize that if  “if you do something wrong you will pay the price for it.”

“It’s been my battle cry that you cannot just return a part to the government, if you committed something wrong, you must pay for it.”

We never doubted the sincerity of PNoy to make a difference. And for that reason, he must match his words with actions and leave no stone unturned for the success of his administration. –Cornelio De Guzman

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