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Lawmaker calls for top-to-bottom probe on alleged AFP 'rip off'

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With the recent revelation of the alleged P50-million "send-off" money being given to retiring chief of staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), a lawmaker called for a top-to-bottom investigation on the entire military organization.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo sounded the call following the revelation of a former military budget officer that former AFP Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes received P50 million as "send-off" money.

"It is grossly unconscionable that this huge amount of taxpayers’ money can be slashed from the military budget to line the pockets of our military officers beginning with the highest ranking general in the hierarchy down to his vice, deputy, and joint staff without being disallowed by the Commission on Audit (COA)," he said.

"If this is true, it logically follows that apart from the AFP chief of staff, all the commanding generals of the Army or Air Force as well as the Flag Officer of the Navy do also receive this payola in proportionate amounts. A monthly P5-million payola alone for a chief of staff is already shockingly anomalous if not downright immoral," he added.

The Quezon City lawmaker noted it is a good thing that no less than President Benigno C. Aquino III took serious cognizance of the problem consistent with his espousal that good governance is anchored on the concept of a social contract popularized in his signature punch line -- "Kayo ang boss ko!"

"Thus, if push turns to shove, it would be best that some concrete steps be taken. First, allow a congressional committee be convened to conduct full-dressed investigation. Second, key informants like Colonel (George) Rabusa should be placed in the Witness Protection Program (WPP) so he can become state witness. Third, issue a 'Hold-Departure-Order' to prevent those to be held accountable from leaving the country until after the congressional inquiry is completed," he said.

Rabusa was the former AFP budget officer who revealed, during the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing last week, the supposed P50 million "send-off" money being given to retiring chief-of-staff of the military.

According to Castelo, nothing should stop Congress to also conduct a top-to-bottom inquiry into the case of the chief of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the commandant of the Philippine Coast Guard since all these uniformed services and the AFP have similar administrative and operational organizational structure, not to mention the so-called mistah culture.

"Once and for all, let us start cleansing the armed departments by letting no stone unturned," he quipped.

"I hope we can carve out and therefore adopt a new corporate model of good governance out of this disturbing allegation of AFP rip off," he added.
Meanwhile, Ang Kabataan party-list Rep. Raymond "Mong" Palatino proposed that the so-called "corruption fund" of the military be realigned to social services like public tertiary education and health.

He said that billions of pesos of government funds are lost to corruption but the budget for social services dwindles down every year.

As such, the party-list solon proposed that the supposed "corruption fund" of the military be realigned to the measly budget of state universities and colleges (SUCs) and health, among others.

"May pera sa corruption tapos walang para sa dagdag budget sa pampublikong serbisyo? (There’s money for corruption but no budget for the increase of social services?). The amount of money exposed by Rabusa could have easily filled in the lack -- say of SUC operations budget which has been reduced this year," he said.

By Lilybeth G. Ison - PNA




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