P-NOY SPEAKER AT PMA HOMECOMING  / RABUSA, TRILLANES NO SHOW
 

FORT DEL PILAR, BAGUIO CITY, FEBRUARY 21, 2011 (STAR) FROM THE BLOG OF Rolio Golez.

P-Noy to hold pabaon generals accountable...

(PHOTO - President Aquino troops the line at the Philippine Military Academy alumni homecoming rites in Baguio City yesterday. ANDY ZAPATA JR.]

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino yesterday vowed to hold the generals involved in the controversial pabaonscandal in the military accountable.

Aquino also said those involved in the plea bargaining agreement with former military comptroller Carlos Garcia would be facing charges.

Aquino urged troops to stay the course as he assured them that all allegations of corruption – including the pabaon or the practice of giving sendoff money to retiring generals – would be investigated.

Speaking to graduates of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) during the alumni homecoming, the President said efforts would be made to determine how raps could be filed against the prosecutors in the Garcia deal.

“We will investigate how we can file charges not only against those tagged in the case but also their cohorts, including the prosecutors involved in the Garcia plea bargaining agreement,” Aquino said.

Aquino hinted at the possibility that the current allegations of corruption could be taken advantage of to destabilize the government.

Aquino rallied the soldiers during the PMA alumni homecoming in Baguio City not to be swayed by people who would want to go back to the old system.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the filing of charges against the prosecutors in Garcia’s plea bargaining deal is being worked out.

Valte noted the curious position taken by the prosecutors in agreeing to the plea bargaining deal with Garcia.

“(Are they defending) the interest of the people or the interest of some? The prosecutors, being a lawyer myself, they are supposed to prosecute to defend the interest of the people, not the interest of one person,” Valte said over radio dzRB.

The investigation into the Garcia plea bargaining agreement has opened up a virtual Pandora’s box that revealed a myriad of irregularities in the military, including the pabaon system and other perks and privileges enjoyed by the top brass.

“I will no longer beat around the bush - your ranks are involved in controversy because of the sendoff gift issue. As your Commander-in-Chief, I know that you are affected by the news and the effect of this on the morale of all the soldiers is no joke. I know that many of you are true to your pledge of courage, integrity, loyalty,” Aquino told the troops.

Aquino gave assurance of full support in the congressional inquiries in uncovering the anomalies in the military organization.

“I am confident that those from the different classes who are with us today are my allies. I will not allow the mistakes of the past to happen again. We will not let this pass; if there were misdeeds committed, they must be paid,” he said.

Aquino said he was aware that the soldiers who were the victims of these alleged anomalies in the military were one with him in wanting to know the truth and cleanse the dirt within their institution.

“If we go with the ones who want to bring our country back to the rotten system, what will happen to us? If putting one over the others is all that will happen, we will end up not only in the swamp cabbage farm but (also) under it. I hope not while we have the chance,” the President said.

Aquino said his administration would investigate and work to press charges not only against Garcia but also “his conspirators and prosecutors” responsible for the plea bargaining agreement.

“I think even they (prosecutors) had also become forgetful. They claim not to have received information that they do not know what they are investigating. Our country is pitiful. Our point here is clear, if there were mistakes committed and there were enough evidence to bring the cases to trial, it is our responsibility to file charges against those involved,” he said.

Aquino said he was quite sure that those who would be proven to have abused their positions have connections or protectors whose liabilities to the people are much bigger.

Aquino called on the troops to continue the straight path to improve their plight.

With the change in the system and wise use of government resources, Aquino said the administration could better address the needs of the military and its personnel.

The President promised to provide housing for the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.

Aquino said he admires the PMA alumni for choosing to defend the country. – Aurea Calica, Alexis Romero, Jaime Laude Posted by Roilo Golez at 12:48 PM

PMA PIONEERING CLASS GRAD: NO TO ABOLITION PHILIPPINE STAR, By Alexis Romero February 20,2011  

FORT DEL PILAR, BAGUIO - A graduate of the pioneering class of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) is saddened by corruption issues in the military but still believes that there are many heroes within the institution.

Col. Rey Bocalbos (photo), a member of the PMA’s class of 1940, said the other day that despite accusations of anomalies in the Armed Forces, there are many soldiers who continue to work for the good of the country.

“(I feel) very bad (about the stories) but you know, the only consolation is that no one man can normally destroy the reputation of the whole thing. There are still hundreds of heroes and you know, good people,” Bocalbos said in a chance interview.

The 92-year-old cavalier also opposed calls to abolish the PMA, saying that one person’s wrongdoing cannot destroy the institution.

“It’s a normal reaction. You know, they just don’t understand. In any group, there’s always somebody that can destroy it but, it doesn’t. You do not destroy the institution because of one man or two men,” Bocalbos said.

Bocalbos was the oldest cavalier who attended last Saturday’s PMA alumni homecoming here. The Tabaco, Albay native was the only one who represented their class, which now has only two surviving members. Wearing a dark blue hat and dressed in a navy blue polo inside a black coat, Bocalbos marched with younger cavaliers on the grounds of the academy that provided him education seven decades ago. Bocalbos was noticeably eloquent and was more than willing to entertain questions from reporters. The retired Army colonel did not wear eyeglasses and managed to walk without the help of a cane or his family members.

Class ’40 was the first batch to complete four years of training as cadets. Two of its graduates, Quirico Evangelista and Reynaldo Mendoza, are the composers of the PMA alma mater song “PMA Oh Hail to Thee.”

Bocalbos, a World War II veteran, claimed there were no accusations of irregularities during his time.

“Fortunately, it never happened before. That’s why now we are taking moves to, you know, reform (the institution),” he said. Bocalbos, however, cited the need to examine the background of those who are making accusations. “I don’t mind the criticisms… Those who criticize, examine their background,” he said.

Bocalbos said authorities can deal with corruption by investigating not just the key military officials but also the low-ranking personnel. “I whisper to the higher ups, you know, you’ve got to go down to see everything, The irregularities, it’s not just in the upstairs, it’s also happening downstairs,” he said.

The military’s financial system was placed under scrutiny after retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa revealed that former military chiefs were given millions in “pabaon” or sendoff money upon retirement. Rabusa, a graduate of class ’81, said some funds had to be diverted to ensure the availability of the “pabaon.” Even before Rabusa made the claims, some PMA graduates have been tagged in issues involving the alleged misuse of military funds. Former military comptroller Carlos Garcia has been accused of stealing more than P300 million from state funds.

On the other hand, class ’70 graduate Jacinto Ligot has been criticized for claiming that he is not aware of the houses reportedly bought by his wife in the US.

FROM ASIAN JOURNAL ONLINE

Whistleblower Rabusa absent in PMA alumni homecoming By Edwin Espejo Feb 19, 2011 1:59PM UTC

(PHOTO - Retired Philippine Army Lt.Col. George Rabusa and former budget officer of the Philippine Armed Forces waves a piece of paper at the resumption of the Senate hearing on the corruption in the military Friday Feb. 18, 2011 in Manila, Philippines. Pic: AP.]

On Friday, both appeared before the Senate committees on blue ribbon and justice that are investigating alleged massive corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

Rabusa, who admitted illegally converting AFP funds to provide three former chiefs of staff slush and send-off money, identified de Leon as the alleged bagman who accepted slush money for Gen. Roy Cimatu.
 

Brig. Gen. de Leon (photo at right), then a lieutenant colonel, was executive assistant of Cimatu when the latter served as AFP chief of staff for four months.

[PHOTO - GENERAL ROY CIMATU]

The former Cimatu aide admitted accepting money from Rabusa but insisted that these were properly reported to his AFP boss and that these were also properly liquidated.

But he categorically denied knowledge that Cimatu received P80 million in send-off money as alleged by Rabusa who claimed he gave the money to his former superior Lt. Gen. Carlos Garcia who was then the chief of defunct AFP J6 or comptrollership staff.

Cimatu was AFP chief of staff from June to September 2001.

Both Rabusa and de Leon exchanged accusations of lying before the Senate committee hearings, a cardinal violation of the honor code of the PMA.

“Eventually, one of us is telling a lie,” de Leon answered when he was confronted by former Senate president Franklin Drilon on whether it was he who went to the office of Rabusa to collect the P10 million fund for Cimatu or it was Rabusa who delivered it to him.

To which Rabusa replied, “You know we are classmate, mistah. So please,” before he was cut short by Drilon jus as when de Leon was trying to explain what were the circumstances of his receipt of the P10 million cash.

De Leon who admitted that his confrontation with Rabusa was one of the most difficult moments of his life said he would leave it as that and would not venture into what Rabusa meant.

De Leon said before Friday’s confrontation, the last time he spoke with Rabusa was in December when he condoled with his classmate following the death of the latter’s mother.

When Rabusa named him as the bagman of Cimatu, de Leon said he has not spoken with his classmate since attending the wake of Rabusa’s mother.

When pressed, Brig. Gen. de Leon said he respects what Rabusa is trying to do.

“He (Rabusa) felt he has a mission to do and I have mine. Let’s leave it at that,” de Leon said.

FROM THE DAILY INQUIRER

Absent Trillanes is hot topic at PMA rites By Dona Pazzibugan, Vincent Cabreza Philippine Daily Inquirer First Posted 02:09:00 02/20/2011

FORT DEL PILAR, Baguio City, Philippines—It seemed to be 'bash-Trillanes day' at the Philippine Military Academy’s alumni homecoming, at least for members of the PMA Makatao Class of 1989.

Despite calls by organizers and PMA officials to steer clear of statements unrelated to the homecoming, the Makatao alumni showed up at the parade grounds in identical black shirts printed with a loaded message: “Arrogance is not part of my discipline.”

It appeared to be a broadside at Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV (Class of 1995), who has been under fire for his “uncavalier” treatment of the late Angelo Reyes (Class of 1966), a former Armed Forces chief, at a Senate hearing on alleged corruption in the military.

But during the traditional parade, where all 1,838 alumni who attended the homecoming trooped the line to inspect the assembled PMA cadets, the Makatao Class members wore black jackets over their shirts.

They said they were not referring to Trillanes when asked by reporters before the start of the parade. But they did not say who they were alluding to in their statement.

As he had earlier told the Inquirer, Trillanes did not show up at the annual alumni homecoming.

Trillanes is the subject of text messages chastising him for purportedly humiliating Reyes at the January 27 hearing. Reyes’ shock suicide 12 days after the hearing added to the heat on the senator.

All in a family

Manuel Espejo, the president of Class of 1966 and Reyes’ mistah (classmate), said there was actually no “anti-Trillanes” mood among the alumni.

Espejo said all PMA graduates now belonged to a family, which was why the alumni present at the homecoming did not bear a grudge against the senator for being overbearing at the Senate hearing.

“We police our own ranks. If you are doing something wrong, we tell you. [The alumni’s chastisement of Trillanes] is being delivered through the media this time. Even his classmates told him [off]. If he shows up and he comes over, we will greet him. We will talk to him,” Espejo said.

Some of Trillanes’ mistahs attended the homecoming.

Eight of Reyes’ mistahs took part in the parade. They wore identical coats in somber gray, apparently in deference to Reyes’ death.

Jacinto Ligot (Class of 1970) and Carlos Garcia (Class of 1971), both former military comptrollers and both on the carpet for unexplained wealth, were not around. But some of their classmates were present.

And in keeping with the homecoming organizers’ request, the welcome streamers leading to the PMA bore simple messages and greetings for every class.

There were no banners alluding to the corruption scandal or Reyes’ suicide.

Except for one: a tarpaulin put up by the “Marine Group 1992” that read: “Let us pay our debt to the Filipino people. Let us not lie, steal and cheat, or tolerate any of them.”

Suspended membership

Garcia’s membership in the PMA Alumni Association (PMAAA) was suspended after he was convicted by a general court-martial in 2005 for not declaring his assets and for being a US green-card holder.

PMAAA officials said Garcia was not dropped from the roster—which is considered a disgrace for a PMA graduate—because then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did not approve his conviction.

President Aquino has to uphold Garcia’s court-martial conviction for it to be considered final.

Espejo said Class of 1966 was not against the congressional inquiries into the alleged corruption in the military.

He said Reyes’ classmates were glad that senators were now conducting their inquiry with less arrogance. “They should maintain being statesmen,” he said.

Former military budget officer George Rabusa, who blew the whistle on the alleged slush fund in the military, did not attend the homecoming despite the fact that his class, the Dimasupil Class of 1981, was this year’s host.

But his mistah, Brig. Gen. Benito de Leon, the chief of the AFP Finance Management Office who has accused him of lying to the Senate, was around.

‘Apolitical’ event

Rex Robles (Class of 1965), one of the founders of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement and a confidant of Reyes, declined to answer questions about the latter or the circumstances that led to his suicide.

Robles said the alumni wanted to keep the homecoming apolitical and had decided to show little of their grieving in public.

Indeed, high-profile alumni and their adopted mistahs, mostly politicians, did not show up.

Also gone was the informal competition for the Best-Dressed Class and the Best-Dressed Wives, which used to entertain the alumni and their families.

The scandal involving the purported corruption in the military was the homecoming’s biggest story. It was the subject of conversations among both active and retired members of the police and military.

In a speech, the PMA superintendent, Vice Adm. Leonardo Calderon Jr., called for sobriety even as he admitted that the entire PMA and its alumni association were “being challenged and criticized” in light of the corruption exposé.

“I urge all alumni not to condemn or prejudge anyone until rulings and decisions are reached by the judicial authorities,” Calderon said.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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