Thursday, 10 February 2011 14:07
First, there was one… then, another one… and then, there was a third. One by one, they came out to expose corruption in the military. Two brave soldiers and a courageous woman defied threats to their safety because they couldn’t take it any more. Indeed, Lt. Col. George Rabusa (ret.), Lt. Col. Antonio Ramon “Sonny” Lim, and Heidi Mendoza are heroes in an establishment ruled by rogues. And they’re making their voices heard loud and clear.
Encouraged by their exposé of the corruption in the military, President Benigno Aquino III took the offensive and called on the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to be “vigilant and report corrupt activities within the military.” In effect, what Aquino did was to ask them to “bypass their superiors and even rat on them,” a move that could be disquieting to the military top brass which relies on a hierarchically structured “grievance” system in dealing with erring soldiers and officers; and at the same time maintain a rigid order of command responsibility. Simply put, nobody would dare go over his immediate superior. To do so would be tantamount to a “death sentence” to a promotion or plum assignment.
As an officer in active duty in the Philippine Air Force, Lim knew that his military career would be over the moment he comes out to expose his superiors. But for whatever reason he had for coming out could only be for the good of the institution he served well since 1986 when he graduated from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA).
On February 2, 2011, the 36-year-old Lim went to the Department of Justice to apply for protection under the Witness Protection Program (WPP) and for immunity from lawsuits. The following day, he appeared before the Senate and told the senators that the security of his family -- and with nine more years remaining in his military service -- prevented him from coming out earlier. And, boldly, he said, “Since the news is on the move of searching for the truth, I considered myself… I want to get involved, I will tell also the truth.” He said that his conscience persuaded him to follow the “daang matuwid” (straight path) that President Benigno Aquino III – his Commander-in-Chief – promised his administration would take.
In a written statement he read before Senate, the teary-eyed Lim collaborated Rabusa’s testimony as to how the money flowed into the possession of the AFP chiefs of staff. His personal account provided a key element in establishing the credibility of Rabusa’s exposé, which implicated former AFP Chiefs of Staff Generals Angelo Reyes, Diomedio Villanueva, and Roy Cimatu in illegally receiving money from “slush funds” taken from the Provision for Command-Directed Activities (PCDA) funds.
In his exposé, Rabusa – who was the budget officer at that time -- accused Reyes of receiving P150 million including a P50-million “pabaon” (send-off money) when he retired as AFP Chief of Staff in 2001. He said that he and his boss, then AFP Comptroller Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot (Garcia’s predecessor), personally delivered the money to Reyes. Rabusa acted as the “bagman” for Garcia and Ligot who were known as the “Comptroller Mafia.” Rabusa said that Garcia and he “converted” – or laundered – almost P1 billion between 2000 and 2001.
Meanwhile, another witness – former state auditor Heidi Mendoza -- came out when the Office of the Ombudsman indicated that the case against Garcia was weak and wouldn’t back out of the plea bargaining agreement that was negotiated with Garcia. This prompted Mendoza to testify and spill the beans on Garcia saying that there is enough evidence to convict him of plunder.
After the three witnesses’ testimony, Rabusa informed Sen. Jinggoy Estrada that he was going to file plunder charges against Reyes, Villanueva, Cimatu, Ligot, and Garcia.
On February 8, Reyes, his two sons, and two bodyguards arrived at 7:00 AM at Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City to visit his parents’ tombs. After the visit, he asked his sons to go back to their vehicle. He also asked his bodyguards to leave him alone. A short time later, they heard a gunshot and saw Reyes fall. Reyes was rushed to the hospital where he was pronounced dead at 8:32 AM.
A decorated officer with an impeccable service record, General Angelo T. Reyes took the only honorable exit for a disgraced officer; that is, to fall on his sword to redeem his honor and restore the respect for the institution that he unquestionably served with the courage of a true warrior. But along the way to the apex of his military career, he got entangled in a corrupt system spawned by an evil government he helped empower. In the end, he was consumed by power and eventually became the casualty of the virulent corruption that has plagued the military… and the country.
*Where do we go from here?
The sad denouement of the investigation into the corruption in the military would further rock a country that is already seething with anger on what’s going on in the country. However, it could also have a positive impact that could mark the end of the culture of impunity and corruption in the military. Indeed, it is time for the AFP to undergo a moral reconstruction to bring back its glory and regain the respect of the people it is sworn to protect.
At the end of the day, it can be said that General Angelo T. Reyes had served his country heroically but fell victim to a corrupt system at the pinnacle of his career. Let’s mourn his demise and bury him with honors.
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