And the trophy (for better or for worst? acting) goes to…

Posted: January 28, 2011 in Corruption, Corruption in the military, Philippine military

Was it just a coincidence that I blogged on military corruption earlier this month?  Was it also a coincidence that it was one and continues to be one of the most read entries of this blog?

Yesterday, we were given during the public hearings at the Senate a glimpse into the industrial anatomy of corruption within the Philippine military. Today’s Inquirer reports that a retired and ailing lieutenant colonel made a surprise appearance and “disclosed how he and his ex-bosses allegedly amassed wealth, with a large portion of the loot taken from soldiers’ salaries.”

George Rabusa, whistleblower

The retired officer, George Rabusa, named former Armed Forces chief of staff (COS) Angelo Reyes (also former secretary of defense, former secretary of the interior and local government, former secretary of environment and natural resources,   and former secretary of energy, among many other posts–all during the nine-year presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from January 2001 to June 2010) as the recipient of a ‘send-off’ (or to use the more evocative Tagalog word–pabaon) gift of “not less than” PhP 50 million (or US$1.13 million using today’s exchange rate) when he retired in 2001.

Rabusa claimed he personally delivered the cash to Reyes’s military quarters, accompanied by the then military comptroller, Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot,  but disclosed they had to convert the money to US dollars to reduce the bulk.

In addition to the ‘send-off” bonanza, Rabusa alleged that Reyes also received a monthly take of at least PhP 5 million ( or US$ 113,000 at today’s exchange rates) for a total of PhP 100 million (or US $ 2.26 million) in his 20 months as AFP COS.

ex-AFP chief Angelo Reyes

In addition, Rabusa also revealed a ‘welcome gift’ ( or pasalubong in Tagalog) of PhP 10 million each (or US$ 226,000) for incoming AFP chiefs Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu, who also served during the GMA presidency.

ex-AFP chief Roy Cimatu

When I was an official of the National Defense College of the Philippines (NDCP), the highest educational institution within the ambit of the Department of National Defense and a co-equal bureau with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), I kept hearing of these practices.  However, there were no whistle-blowers like Rabusa until yesterday.

At the same Senate hearing, Angelo Reyes, according to today’s Inquirer, did not deny Rabusa’s story, saying only: “I cannot remember accepting”  the PhP 50 million “pabaon.”


Perhaps, the reason why he forgot is because he what he could remember are heftier bonanzas and PhP 50 million is ‘chicken feed.’

Ex-military comptroller Ligot, named by Rabusa as the one who accompanied him in the monthly delivery trips to Reyes’s quarters, similarly claimed he cannot recall them.

ex-AFP comptroller Jacinto Ligot

Again, perhaps, what he remembers are weekly or daily deliveries to more substantial and powerful ‘others?’

But since they (Reyes and Ligot) were not asked directly about these, then they will not volunteer the information.

Reyes put on a histrionic display when he asked the senators to allow him to directly question Rabusa.  Normally, a resource person like Reyes is not allowed to address a fellow guest during Senate hearings.

Reyes asked (in Filipino): “Can I ask Colonel Rabusa, if, during the time that I was chief of staff, if I became greedy? Did I ask him for anything?  Did I demand money money from him, officially or unofficially?”

When he was finally allowed to question Rabusa, Reyes asked the former if he ever interfered in the preparation and distribution of the AFP special fund–provisions for command-directed activities–the supposed source of loot for military brass.

John Grisham wrote in The Rainmaker that it is dangerous to ask a question in court or in an open public hearing if one was or did not make sure what the answer will be.  More often, he warned, you will not like the answer.

best-selling author John Grisham

This proved to be the case for Reyes.

Rabusa concurred that Reyes did not directly ask him for money or anything.  

He just reminded his former boss: “No, sir, because you delegated the function to me and (retired Lt.) Gen. (Jacinto) Ligot (former comptroller).”

Rabusa added: “The instruction that I heard directly from you before was, ‘Wag nyo lang akong papirmahin ng alanganin (Just don’t make me sign anything that would get me in trouble).”

Rabusa noted that pasalubong and pabaon were in keeping with a “tradition” in the AFP of “rewarding” its chiefs princely sums.  He admitted he was himself unclean, having received half a million pesos monthly as AFP budget officer.

Meanwhile, Reyes continued to deny he ever received funds illegally and protested, according to the Philippine Star: “It is my reputation, my name and my family that are being assaulted here.  I need to protect it.”

An obviously irked Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, jailed for seven years for leading the failed Oakwood military mutiny in July 2003, retorted: “You no longer have any reputation to protect!”

The Oakwood mutiny was prompted, among others, by charges of corruption within the military.

Other wags observed that ‘general amnesia” was present during yesterday’s hearings as Reyes and Ligot repeatedly claimed they could not remember any instance when money was delivered to Reyes’ quarters while he was AFP chief of staff.

And that, folks, is entertainment!

  1. Nonoy Oplas says:

    Thanks Bong. I have a 2-parts discussion about corruption in the military, including a comment from an officer of the AFP,

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