Resist influence peddlers, solon tells AFP | Inquirer News
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Resist influence peddlers, solon tells AFP

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 05:34 AM September 23, 2018

The Armed Forces of the Philippines should come clean about the supposed involvement of a group of individuals close to President Rodrigo Duterte in alleged lobbying for various military hardware, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said on Friday.

The militant lawmaker raised the issue as the marathon deliberations on the proposed P3.7-trillion national budget for 2019 entered its third day in the House of Representatives.

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The Department of National Defense is asking Congress to allocate P251 billion to the AFP and its other attached agencies, including P25 billion for the military’s modernization program.

Serious issue

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“If there is such a serious allegation, the AFP as an institution should issue an official statement regarding it,” Zarate said in an interview.

“They should not just shrug it off,” Zarate said.

“We have been questioning shady deals in the AFP’s modernization program. We will do it again whoever is behind it,” he added.

“Instead of issuing a blanket denial, military officials should investigate these allegations,” Zarate said.

Zarate noted that opposition Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV had claimed that a retired general from Davao City and members of the so-called Davao Group had been meddling in the AFP’s procurement process using the name of the President.

The Davao Group, which Trillanes said was composed of close relatives and friends of the President, was mentioned when a customs fixer, Mark Taguba, implicated it in the smuggling of P6.4 billion worth of illegal drugs last year.

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The President had already warned state agencies not to accommodate individuals who had been dropping his name to secure government contracts.

According to Zarate, the group was also trying to revive the scuttled procurement of 16 Bell 412 helicopters from Canada, which was aborted after the President protested conditions set by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in the deal worth $235 million.

In February, the President, apparently piqued by the condition, said he would just drop the deal.

“Do not buy anymore from Canada and the US because there is always a condition attached,” he said.

Zarate said Bayan Muna consistently opposed the purchase of helicopters that would be used for counterinsurgency.

“Then and now, [the AFP] has been hounded by allegations of corruption,” Zarate said.

“If the military allows that group to meddle [in its procurement process], then it would only show what kind of institution the AFP is,” Zarate added.

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TAGS: AFP, Antonio Trillanes IV, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Carlos Isagani Zarate, Davao group, Department of National Defense, DND, Rodrigo Duterte
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