President Rodrigo Duterte has fired 20 military officials, including top brass of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), over alleged corruption activities such as anomalous and ghost projects at the V. Luna Medical Center in Quezon City, Malacañang said Monday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte has ordered the relief of 20 officials after “it was brought to the President’s attention that alleged corruption activities have been taking place at the V. Luna Medical Center.”
Among the at least 20 officials, Roque has only identified two so far.
“President Duterte has ordered relief and court-martial proceedings against top military brass, which includes Brig. Gen. Edwin Leo Torrelavega, Commander of the AFP Health Service Command (AFPHSC), Col. Antonio Punzalan, Commander of the V. Luna Medical Center, Chiefs of Management and Fiscal Office and the Logistics office of the AFPHSC among others,” he said in a Palace briefing.
The Palace official also said Duterte has since read the report of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) and the AFP.
“Based on the reports, several high ranking officials and employees of the V. Luna Medical Center, Health Service Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, undertook anomalous purchases of equipment and engaged in fraudulent transactions, including ghost-purchasing, splitting of contracts to circumvent mandatory bidding processes, and conceiving fictitious suppliers with a total amount of P1,491,570.00,” Roque said.
He said AFP Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez has already released a memorandum relieving the involved officials.
“[T]hat should be effective upon receipt of the officers,” he said.
The AFP, Roque said, would release “a larger report” on Tuesday regarding the anomalous transactions.
“The report that they have now only involved ghost transactions, ghost deliveries involving P1,491,570. Meaning, P1,491,570 worth of ghost deliveries but there are series of transactions involving almost hundreds of millions of pesos. So they will be releasing subsequent reports in due course,” he said.
Roque said Galvez told him that the total number of individuals, who would be relieved was around 20.
“But I only have two names so far. But they will be around 20,” he said. “I suppose the entire office that has to do with procurement will be relieved.”
Roque said the anomalies at the military hospital were discovered through a whistleblower.
“I don’t know if I’m at liberty but they had a whistleblower. And of course, the whistleblower went to the proper channels that did the investigation. The President ordered the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission to investigate, and he also ordered the Chief-of-Staff to look into the matter,” he said.
The reports about the alleged corruption, he said, reached the President on August 6.
“[T]he reports came in last Monday which explains why the President was very aggravated in talking about corruption in the last Cabinet meeting because there was the issue of both Nayong Pilipino and V. Luna, information which he had just received concerning fraudulent activities in both agencies,” he said.
Roque said the alleged corrupt practices at the V. Luna Medical Center has been “ongoing for a very long period of time.”
“It did not just start during the administration of President Duterte. It apparently has been ongoing for a very long period of time,” he said.
The President, he said, was “ballistic” with the reported corruption at the military hospital.
“He’s ballistic because it was only recently that he ordered that a sum of P50 million be released to V. Luna to make sure that V. Luna will have sufficient funds to cover all medical requirements of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he said.
“Of course, only to find out that bulk of the funds, or much of the funds, maybe going to pockets of corrupt officials of the Armed Forces,” he added.
The anomalous transactions, he said, also include medical equipment “hence the President’s frustrations and anger.”
“He was personally aggravated when the information on corruption was confirmed in V. Luna. Personally aggravated and angered,” Roque said.
He said the anomalous deals “is not an isolated transaction.”
“It involves quite a number of anomalous transactions,” according to Roque, adding that the investigation has been finished.
“That’s why there’s already a report,” he said.
The spokesman said the at least P1.4 million was just regarding “one transaction alone.”
“Yes, that’s just one case. We’re talking of, according to the Chief of Staff, and I had a conversation with him, hundreds of millions of pesos,” he pointed out.
“Apparently it’s a conspiracy. It’s institutional corruption in V. Luna,” he added.
He said replacements for the sacked officials would be made but no names yet have been released.
“I think there will be widespread and many replacements to be appointed because according to the Chief of Staff, there will be no less than 20 individuals who will be relieved and subject to court-martial procedure,” he said. /kga