It should be remembered that the corruption scandals that involved the Arroyo family were the subject of so many congressional inquiries and were made as basis for the impeachment complaints that were filed against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. There are already numerous evidences that were gathered. And yet, the Aquino government has not yet demonstrated the political will to run after the Arroyo family.
The congressional inquiry into the extent of corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is a case of something bad turning into something good. When the Office of the Ombudsman – which is still under former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s appointee, ally and friend Merceditas Gutierrez – tried to let former AFP comptroller and general Carlos Garcia go with a light sentence through a plea bargain agreement, and Congress decided to look into it, perhaps, nobody expected it to go this far. The point of the inquiry was whether the Office of the Ombudsman was right in its decision to enter into a plea bargain agreement with Garcia on the basis of its claim that the case is weak. Not only did the inquiry prove that the case against Garcia is strong, it has been revealing the deep-seated, systematic corruption happening in the AFP.
The inquiry opened up a can of worms and whistleblowers surfaced one after another. Heidi Mendoza of the Commission on Audit, (retired) Lt. Col. George Rabusa and Lt. Col. Antonio Ramon “Sonny” Lim of the AFP budget office detailed the extent of anomalies in the AFP, including the the diversion of UN peacekeeping funds for the repair of a C-130 plane, which had been funded already through the JUSMAG, the use of half of the P1.8 billion AFP modernization fund for the purchase of “office supplies,” and the damning “pabaon”(send off gift) system to outgoing chiefs of staff.
Former AFP chief of Staff Angelo Reyes, who also occupied the positions of Environment Secretary and Energy Secretary, was put on the line. When put in direct confrontation with Rabusa, his only defense was to ask the former military budget officer, “Was I greedy? Did I ask you for anything?” In the end, Reyes took his own life, perhaps, in an attempt to spare his family of the continuing disgrace he had to endure.
Reyes’s reaction was dismissed as a lame excuse, a defensive posture of a guilty man who could not deny the obvious. And his grilling was viewed by different people in various ways: Senator Antonio Trillanes IV described it as a day of reckoning, former military rebel Rex Robles called it as a witch-hunt that diverted from the purpose of the congressional inquiry, Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo described the investigations as hypocritical, and former Arroyo presidential spokesperson and apologist Rigoberto Tiglao described it as “debasing episode by episode the integrity of the Armed Forces.”
What Reyes said during the investigations was more than a lame excuse, it was a revelation. Reyes did not begin the system of corruption in the AFP, it existed long before he became AFP chief of staff. It began when the AFP was oriented, organized, armed and funded by the US and the ruling elite to protect its interests in the country. It is not surprising that the AFP top brass partakes of the big amounts being allocated to it in the national budget plus the US foreign military financing and aid. Neither is it surprising that the civilian bureaucracy turns a blind eye to it. After all, officials of the civilian bureaucracy have their own pie to partake from. More important is the fact that the civilian government needs the loyalty of the AFP top brass to keep itself in power. This is why the corruption in the AFP became worse during the times that its support was most needed by the government: during the 14 years of Marcos fascist dictatorship and the nine years of the Arroyo administration, the legitimacy of which was under question.
While it is true that corruption in the AFP and the whole government, for that matter, did not start and end with the Marcos dictatorship and the Arroyo administration, they made it infinitely worse. Tiglao, in his PDI column with the title “Our Dreams Will Never Die”, claimed that corruption within the AFP ended when the Arroyo administration instituted reforms in 2003, dismantled the AFP comptroller’s office in 2004, and doubled the budget and personnel of the Office of the Ombudsman. Well, it is expected of Tiglao to defend his benefactor Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
How could corruption in the AFP and in the government end in 2004 when the Arroyo administration was enmeshed in more corruption scandals thereafter, to include the National Broadband Network deal with ZTE of China in 2007 and the P500,000 bribe distributed to congressmen and local officials in a gathering inside Malacañang palace? How about the Euro generals scandal in 2008 where former PNP comptroller Eliseo de la Paz and his wife were caught by Russian authorities carrying €105,000 or P6.9 million in cash? De la Paz and eight police generals, with their wives, went to Russia to attend an Interpol conference. As for the doubling of the budget of the Office of the Ombudsman, well, this is one of the reasons why Gutierrez and company have been protecting Arroyo and her allies, including Garcia, up to now.
While the congressional inquiry is a step forward in stamping out corruption in the AFP, and the whole government, the Aquino administration still has a long way to go. For one, a congressional inquiry is merely in aid of legislation. What is needed is the prosecution of those involved in plunder and corruption. It should be remembered that the corruption scandals that involved the Arroyo family were the subject of so many congressional inquiries and were made as basis for the impeachment complaints that were filed against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. There are already numerous evidences that were gathered. And yet, the Aquino government has not yet demonstrated the political will to run after the Arroyo family.
Second, the Aquino government should not run after only the small fry and the underlings, it should run after the big fish, such as Arroyo.
Third, it should not stop with replacing the appointees of the previous Arroyo administration, it should restructure and reform the bureaucracy and the whole political system – including the system of elections and political appointments where money, resources and influence spell the difference.
Fourth, assert the nation’s sovereignty and disallow the presence of foreign troops in the country.
Fifth, reorient the AFP and the PNP to truly serve the interests of the Filipino people and not just a few from the elite.
Sixth, it should alter its current thrusts and priorities in the economy. Globalization and its concomitant policies of liberalization, deregulation, and privatization have been identified as factors that exacerbate corruption in the world. Quotations from the report “Exporting Corruption – Privatisation, Multinationals and Bribery,” by Sue Hawley and published by the NGO The Corner House read, “If corruption is growing throughout the world, it is largely a result of the rapid privatization (and associated practices of contracting-out and concessions) of public enterprises worldwide. This process has been pushed by western creditors and governments and carried out in such as way as to allow multinational companies to operate with increased impunity.”
“Thus multinationals, supported by western governments and their agencies, are engaging in corruption on a vast scale in North and South alike. Donor governments and multilateral agencies such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund frequently put forward anti-poverty and “good governance” agendas, but their actions send a different signal about where their priorities lie.”
“As Western governments and the World Bank and IMF shout ever more loudly about corruption, their own policies are making it worse in both North and South. Particularly at fault are deregulation, privatization, and structural adjustment policies requiring civil service reform and economic liberalization.”
Shades of the Public-Private-Partnership scheme that the Aquino government is aggressively pushing? Need I say more?