Monday, January 31, 2011

Corruption in the military, part 2

A friend, an officer at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), commented to my posting last week, Corruption in the military. I am posting his 2 emails to me, I only removed his name, position and a few lines that will pinpoint to his identity. My comments to his points in my next posting.

For now, I want to clarify -- I have apologized to him already -- about my earlier statement in the said article where I wrote, "I firmly believe that the military institution is deeply corrupt". It was my fault that I did not clarify that not everyone in the military is corrupt, that there are plenty of good and well-meaning officers and soldiers in that institution. But large-scale robbery scandals by some of its top leadership are enough to smear the entire institution because they are the leaders of that institution. Below is his letter. The two logos, I just added them here.


Allow me to address you by that name, and please allow me to react a bit on your article. Am sure you won't mind hearing from the one who's within the organization himself.

Foremost is my assurance that I respect your views on the issue, and I could only share your frustration about it. Of course I am not to deny it, what organization is immune to it anyway? And I am not justifying it either. In fact I despise it. But if the President is corrupt, I won't say the whole government is corrupt in the same way. It would be unfair to Mr Right who's been fair all the way.

I could still remember the remark made by a classmate when we were still Lieutenants about a corrupt Commander. "Ang mahirap kasi bok wala pa namang napa-firing squad sa corruption". That was in the mid 80's and indeed until now I havent heard of anyone shot, much less jailed, for corruption. Correct me if am wrong, pero meron na nga ba? If anybody will be allowed to just shoot at will any corrupt person, and just be punished "distierro" in return, ang dami na siguro namatay at mas marami nagdalawang isip mangwalahiya sa di nila pag-aari.

Seriously, I guess the problem lies in the way we handle these cases. I am not a lawyer (and am glad am not) but any rational individual doesn't need a law degree to just wonder what happened to Estrada's plunder cases, the Arroyos' NBN ZTE deal and a truckload of other anomalous cases, I just hope the Reyes, Ligot and Garcia cases will not be lost in the four corners of the senate's walls, where lots of purported intelligent peoples are obviously simply grandstanding.

At my rank, I still drive an old 90s car, still line up at the different lending institutions to file loan for my kids tuition fees, and find pleasure to be able to treat my family once in a while to some cheap fastfood/QSR, to think that I've been a battalion commander in the mineral-rich part of Mindanao, received half a million quarterly battalion funds for a few years, and returned P3+ million in unliquidated CAFGU allowances back to the government coffers. I guess it would not be fair (for me) to be generalized as corrupt. In the first place, with what happened, the military was at the losing end because its the military's money that was lost, money that could have been used to send bleeding soldiers to a better hospital to get better chances of surviving.

Behind all these, I still believe there's a bit of hope for the Philippines, for the government, for the military. Positive change is not as elusive as we think it is. We can all make a difference.

To start with, let us establish the fact that there is corruption everywhere, not just the military. The fundamental question that needs to be answered, is why corruption happens, aside of course from what they say that lust for wealth and fortune is human nature. Bakit nga ba nagkakaroon ng corruption in the military?

Unlike Garcia, Ligot and Rabusa, comptrollership is not my line. I am an infantry officer throughout and my specialization is merely to lead men in battle. But hearing from the comptrollers themselves, I can say without doubt that corruption stems from a flawed system called conversion. Am sure you are familiar with it but still allow me to give you a concrete example of how the system works.

As I told you before, I’ve been a battalion commander receiving about half a million funds per quarter. Strictly speaking, my unit should receive supplies and equipment in equivalent amount to support the operations of my unit. It should be good if the logistics planners are really that proficient enough to anticipate what my unit would need over the next 3 months. Unfortunately they’re not and that’s where the problem begins. They give us engine parts but it’s the brake system that fails. They give us papers but it’s the printer that breaks. Its where conversion comes in.

At my higher unit from where funds were channeled, we were given supports in cash, less 15% for clearing. It was not a matter of choice actually but a matter of practice. Simply stated, “here’s 85K out of your 100K logistics fund, buy whatever you want and we’ll use your 15K to clear”. Absolutely crazy for me but good for those having personal interest in cleared 85K without further accountability! And what’s the withheld 15K for? 3% VAT for the amount to be placed in bogus receipts, a portion for the boss’ contingency, a portion to the different offices that processes the clearing papers, including COA!

One time I received a written directive from the Army that P270+K is being released to my unit to buy communications equipment for my detachments. During the liquidation process, my supply officer was told that the account fund was for “repair and maintenance” so we should give COA receipts for parts and repairs. I went to see COA and showed them the directive telling me that I should buy radios and not for repairs. I was told, yes, but the account code used in releasing the money was for repair, so I should “produce” receipt for repair. “So you’re telling me to give you a bogus receipt for repair when you know for a fact that I bought actual units?” I was bluntly told yes, so yes I did. When the clearing papers were completed, my disbursing officer told me we have to give “something” to the COA so our papers will be processed. I felt like I just want to ram the papers down their throat!

As an institution, the AFP is not bereft with measures to instill integrity and professionalism in the service. It's part of every curriculum, from the pre-entry to all other courses we take along the way. Value formation is a major undertaking in military affairs. At the end of the line, it’s the person himself that matters. No matter how good the foundation is, exposure and open opportunity sometimes erodes the cemented will to resist. The door to temptation is left wide open and inviting to come in.

As I said before, tinyente pa lang ako, wala pa kong narinig na na-firing squad sa corruption. Malapit na ko mag-retire, wala pa rin. Eh papano nga naman matatakot? Of course I don’t mean that literally, but the message is there. Prosecute the offenders as deterrence for others. At the same time, the present system should be reviewed and shut the doors to temptation. I just hope Rabusa will not be another Lozada whose expose just went pfft. For the record, I don’t admire Rabusa because I am personally aware of his corrupt deeds. A lowly Lt Colonel amassing unimaginable wealth. I guess simply kicking him out of the service is not enough, he should be languishing in jail, together with those he is presently accusing.


See also Corruption in the military (part 1), January 28, 2011

No comments: