NOY: I'VE REACHED SATURATION POINT / AFP MORALE NOW NOY'S HUGE CHALLENGE

MANILA
, FEBRUARY 4, 2011 (MALAYA) PRESIDENT Aquino yesterday said he was no longer surprised by former state auditor Heidi Mendoza’s statements about corruption in the Armed Forces because he has already reached the saturation point so early in his presidency.

"Marami na ang na-discover natin, at walang tigil ito. Naabot ko na rin ang saturation because ang reaction natin kadalasan, ‘Pati ba naman iyan, pati ito hindi na pinalampas.’ Akala malaki na iyan, yun pala (may mas malaki pa)," Aquino said in an ambush interview in Laguna.

"Parang nahirapan na akong magulat," he said.

He said he has ordered the Presidential Management Staff to consolidate what has been discovered so far in the AFP fund mess and prepare a briefer.

He said he wants to see which agency has been doing what task in connection with anomalies bared in the congressional probes.

"At the end of the day, the Department of Justice will be the primary unit that will be tasked to investigate," he said.

Mendoza, a former government auditor, told a House inquiry Tuesday that P50 million in AFP funds disappeared in a single day in 2002 during a series of transactions and another $5 million from the United Nations remains unaccounted for.

The Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines joined the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines in expressing support for Mendoza.

AMRSP chair Sr. Mary John Mananzan said her group believes Mendoza is credible and would be more than willing to provide her protection just like it did to another whistle-blower, Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada of the national broadband deal in the Arroyo government. – Regina Bengco and Gerard Naval

FROM THE TRIBUNE

Noynoy response key to AFP morale — JPE By Angie M. Rosales 02/03/2011

TRIBUNE - Legislators are worried that the can of worms being let out in the ongoing Senate inquiry into allegations of corruption in the military may result in gross disillusionment among soldiers and the administration of President Aquino was put to task in turning around the probes’ backlash into a positive result by not letting off any of those who will be found responsible for the wholesale raid of public funds.

Already, recently, there were signs the House of Representatives and the Palace are softening on former chiefs of staff, primarily those allied with the ruling power.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile (photo up left) cited a growing concern in the Senate over the impact stirred by the latest scandal involving the military organization and its officials among the military ranks.

Enrile said there’s more than enough grounds for Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to junk the plea bargaining agreement with former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia now that two witnesses have attested to the alleged corrupt practices of the retired military officer. Enrile also warned Gutierrez not to dismiss the testimony given by former state auditor Heidi Mendoza before the House of Representatives last Tuesday, saying the latter presented a “very good case for the people of the Philippines” against Garcia.

“If I were the Ombudsman, with that revelation (of Mendoza ), I will have to re-think the plea bargain agreement because the statement of that woman is a telling indictment of the entire system.

We have to heed the facts narrated by Mendoza ,” said Enrile.

Sen. Franklin Drilon said the Ombudsman should immediately scuttle the plea bargain deal and instead present Rabusa and Mendoza as witnesses for the prosecution, the two having direct knowledge on the issues surrounding the case.

“The only way to cleanse this is to let the ax fall on the heads of whoever is guilty of misbehavior. I’m willing to have my 17- year service record opened, including the intelligence clearances, if they want to find out if similar events happened during my time. I can stand before the people,” Enrile said, referring to his stint as defense minister during the Marcos administration, Enrile said.

No doubt, he added, this controversy will bring about a problem of morale in the AFP.

“If an ordinary soldier will hear a thing like that, he will feel bad. Even the junior union officers will feel bad. We should be very careful that the rank-and-file in the military will not be disillusioned and disaffected. It is the duty of the leaders of this country to see to it that we address this problem.Show to the rank-and-file of the military organization that there’s a higher authority that can discipline anybody, including generals, so that the clash in the soldiery in the country will be resolved,” he said.

Enrile said the challenge is now on the administration in addressing the issue and ensure accountability of officials concerned.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, along with Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Sen. Francis Pangilinan called for the preservation of the military institution.

Escudero said ongoing investigations should hold accountable those who took advantage of the coffers of the armed forces for personal gain without destroying the institution itself.

Drilon went on to say that there is “no reason” for Gutierrez to say that the evidence is weak in arriving at a plea bargain deal with Garcia that in effect reduced the former military general’s plunder case of at least P300 million to a lesser offense of direct bribery and violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Law.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, said based on what has transpired lately, the case against Garcia can be re-filed or that new charges can be lodged against the former AFP comptroller.

“There has been a change in the circumstances. Even the courts, after deciding on the case and makes it final and executory, if there’s new evidence, can move for a new trial because that is the ground provided by the Rules of Court. That should be the attitude in dealing with our laws, especially the Rules of Court. Any decision, even if it’s rendered final, can still be reviewed in the face of new evidence, more so in the case of a mere preliminary investigation,” she said in an interview with reporters.

“There was no Rabusa yet when the Ombudsman passed on that. Even so, I would grant the presumption (of regularity of performance of duty) to the Ombudsman, because sometimes when you are in the heat of following up a, let us just say, significant lead, then you make a judgment call which is not always acceptable to everybody. But today the position is very clear: with the Rabusa testimony, unless they are able to impeach the testimony of Rabusa, now we have an eyewitness so the evidence becomes very strong,” she added.

According to Escudero, former military generals Angelo Reyes, Carlos Garcia, Jacinto Ligot and whoever is into corruption do not comprise the whole armed forces.

Pangilinan said soldiers should not to be dismayed by these new developments and instead support their officers, Rabusa and Mendoza, who have shown exemplary courage and integrity in coming out with their revelations at the risk of their own lives.

“The challenge now is for more ranking officers, the generals who know more about the anomalies in the AFP, to come out. This is your chance to shine through. This is your chance to rid the institution of elements that have tarnished it. This is your chance to imagine a better military establishment for our tomorrow,” said Pangilinan.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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