MANILA, Philippines?Is the military?s premier intelligence unit also moonlighting as a foreign exchange dealer?
It would seem so, if we go by the account of a former military budget officer, retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa, who recently blew the whistle on the military practice of giving the top brass hefty sums for personal use.
Interviewed on Radyo Inquirer Tuesday, Rabusa said that in the course of giving a supposed monthly P5-million allotment to then Armed Forces chief of staff Gen. Angelo Reyes, he (Rabusa) decided to have it in dollars ?for easier safekeeping.?
Rabusa said he also resorted to exchanging pesos into dollars for ?easier delivery? of the P50-million alleged ?send-off gift? (pabaon) for Reyes, who retired from the military in March 2001 after a 20-month tour of duty.
?There are men in ISAFP who will do it, it doesn?t take much time,? Rabusa told Radyo Inquirer?s ?Tapatan? hosts Jay Sonza and Den Macaranas. ?That?s why it?s called a Mafia.?
ISAFP stands for Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. It has its own office inside Camp Aguinaldo, secured with a concrete fence and well-manned, thick iron gates. Within Camp Aguinaldo, ISAFP is called the ?Republic of ISAFP.?
The intelligence unit gained notoriety five years ago when then ISAFP chief Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit threw P500 bills during an office Christmas party as ISAFP personnel shouted, ?Long live the emperor!? There were no reports, though, about dollar bills being given away like candy.
?It takes a call?I need greens, that?s the code. Or convert this to green. And the violet comes back colored green,? Rabusa said in Filipino.
Reyes has denied receiving hefty sums from the AFP.
No bank account
Rabusa said he broached the idea of giving Reyes? monthly allotment in dollars to then AFP comptroller Maj. Gen. Jacinto Ligot.
?Maybe General Reyes has difficulty hiding his millions of pesos. Maybe we should give him dollars,? Rabusa recalled telling Ligot.
When they told Reyes about it, the military chief did not object, he said.
?I know General Reyes was not keeping a bank account. I thought dollars were easier to hide since these would not be so bulky,? Rabusa said.
Rabusa also thought of converting the P50-million pabaon into dollars to save him and Ligot from the effort of transporting such a big amount of money.
?It would not even fit in one military duffel bag,? Rabusa said. ?How could we bring it to the White House?? The White House is a two-story manse inside Camp Aguinaldo assigned as the official quarters of the AFP chief of staff.
The former budget officer said he also needed dollars for the travel expenses and shopping money of Reyes? wife, Tess, who he said, was given cash from $10,000 to $20,000 per trip.
Documents from the Bureau of Immigration showed Ms Reyes traveled abroad 48 times from 1993 to 2002. She was often accompanied by Erlinda Ligot, the wife of the AFP comptroller then, and Rabusa?s wife Debbie.