Rabusa immune from plunder rapsBy Dona Z. Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Office of the Ombudsman has spared former military budget officer and retired Col. George Rabusa from facing plunder and graft charges alongside fellow military officials whom he earlier implicated in the multi-million “pabaon” (retirement cash gifts) funds conversion scam in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales dismissed the plunder and graft charges filed against Rabusa on grounds that he enjoys immunity as a state witness under the Department of Justice’s Witness Protection Program.
In a 13-page resolution dated Feb. 27, 2013, but released only yesterday, Morales said the complainants against Rabusa could not question the DOJ’s decision to turn Rabusa into a state witness.
Morales said the Supreme Court had vested in the DOJ “the power to determine who can qualify as a witness in the program and who shall be granted immunity from prosecution.”
Rabusa was charged with plunder and graft by Arturo Besana, the resident auditor assigned by the Commission on Audit (COA) to the AFP general headquarters from Dec. 1, 1994, to June 29, 1995, and Maj. Ernesto Angulo.
They said Rabusa was the “brains” behind the anomalies and should be similarly charged based on his “admissions” in the amended complaint he filed with the DOJ against Besana and 12 others for plunder.
In that complaint, Rabusa admitted he gave instructions to convert P200 million of AFP funds into dollars “without going through the regular banking system” and subsequently transmitted the amount to a bank in Bangkok, Thailand.
Rabusa had also admitted that “the funds utilized came from personnel services or from salary and allowances of soldiers.”
In that complaint, Rabusa also disclosed that he deposited P160 million in an account under his name at the Herrera Branch of Security Bank “for the ‘pabaon’ of General Villanueva.”
Besana had accused Rabusa of availing of the government’s Witness Protection Program to avoid prosecution for plunder even though “he was the ‘brains,’ together with his staff, of this plunderous scheme involving unlawful manipulation of AFP funds and resources.”
Rabusa was the one who revealed the multi-billion anomaly inside the military which resulted to the filing of criminal cases against former ranking military officials including former AFP chiefs Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu; retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia (former AFP chief comptroller); retired Maj. Gen. Jacinto Ligot (former AFP chief comptroller); Brig. Gen. Benito Antonio de Leon; Col. Cirilo Tomas Donato (Isafp budget officer) and retired Lt. Col. Ernesto Paranis ( commanding officer of the Finance Service Unit of AFP Intelligence Service).
Also charged were retired Maj. Gen. Hilario Atendido, for his alleged participation as “bagman” of Villanueva and Col. Roy Devesa, former executive assistant to the late Chief of Staff Gen. Angelo Reyes.