, FEBRUARY 8, 2011 (STAR) By Delon Porcalla - Malacañang will not defend Special Envoy to the Middle East Roy Cimatu from allegations that he received some P80 million in sendoff money when he retired as Armed Forces chief.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Cimatu cannot invoke an executive order on executive privilege issued during the Arroyo administration to refuse to testify before the Senate.

“If he will be summoned by the Senate, we have no EO 464 to stop anyone from appearing before the Senate,” he said.

Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. said President Aquino has not prohibited any member of the Cabinet or the bureaucracy from attending the Senate hearing, but added they were still waiting for the outcome of the investigation .

He said because of due process, Cimatu remains as special envoy for the moment.

Ochoa reiterated the government’s call for members of the military to cooperate with investigations into allegations of corruption in the Armed Forces.

Lacierda said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) sent back Cimatu because the repatriation of Filipinos in Egypt can be managed without him.

“As far as I know, the reason is because there is no need anymore for him to go to Egypt,” he said.

“The DFA deemed it is not necessary for him to go there anymore. The Filipino nationals are being addressed properly by the increased staff in the Philippine embassy in Egypt.”

The military called yesterday on officers tagged in fresh corruption allegations to explain their side to the Senate and other investigating agencies.

Armed Forces spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. said the directive is aimed to promote transparency and accountability in the military.

“We call on everyone to shed light (on the issue),” he said.

“The Chief of Staff has time and again said anyone who should be called (by investigating bodies) should prepare.”

Mabanta said active Colonels Roy Deveza and Abraham Bagasin, and Brig. Gen. Benito de Leon will likely be summoned by the defense department’s special investigating committee.

The DND has implemented reforms to enhance transparency in the handling of funds, he added.

These include the delineation of funds of major services to ensure that they would go to the intended recipients, Mabanta said.

The Philippine Military Academy Alumni Association, Inc. (PMAAAI) has urged the government to punish those guilty of corruption in the military.

“We… support the efforts being undertaken by the Senate and the House of Representatives in conducting their investigations in order for truth and justice to prevail with the end in view of sparing the innocent and punishing the guilty,” read the manifesto.

“We continue to support the AFP leadership and its efforts to eradicate corruption in the military establishment.

The PMAAAI manifesto was signed by the group’s chairman, Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, and its president Edgardo Samonte.

The PMA alumni said allegations of irregularities could demoralize the officers, men and women of the Armed Forces.

“The ongoing exposé on the alleged corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines… has severely tarnished the image of the defense and military establishments,” the PMAAAI said.

Biazon called on PMAAAI members to discuss the issue of corruption during the upcoming PMA alumni homecoming on Feb. 19 in Baguio City.

“We have to deal with the reality that some of us may have gone astray but let this not demoralize us,” he said.

“Let us show that the graduates of the academy are still intact in the service of our country driven by courage, integrity, and loyalty,” he said.

More than five years after his conviction by a court martial, former military comptroller Carlos Garcia has not been expelled from the PMAAAI. – With Alexis Romero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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