Rabusa sues 3 ex-military chiefs for plunder
MANILA, Philippines—Vowing to finish what he began regardless of what happens to him, former military budget officer George Rabusa filed plunder complaints against three former Armed Forces chiefs of staff, four retired generals and 10 other people for their alleged involvement in military fund anomalies.
The main respondents were former AFP chiefs of staff Efren Abu, Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu, and former comptrollers Jacinto Ligot and Carlos Garcia.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima welcomed the filing of the complaint.
“We’ve been waiting for this complaint. Since it’s in a complaint form already, we will assign it to a panel directly for preliminary investigation,” De Lima said in a text message.
Rabusa Thursday presented to the Department of Justice (DoJ) over 20 folders containing pieces of evidence, such as receipts, checks and other documents, to prove, he said, how money was misused during the tenures of Abu, Villanueva and Cimatu.
Asked if he was afraid someone would get back at him, Rabusa told reporters: “It’s not a problem for me. As I said, I began this so I’ll finish it. I’m prepared for all that might happen to me.”
“We have documents … We have testimony. I think we have a strong case,” Rabusa’s lawyer Noel Malaya said.
Other respondents were retired generals Ligot, Garcia, Hilario Atendido and Epineto Logico; retired colonels Cirilo Donato and Roy Devesa; retired majors Ernesto Paranis; former chief accountant Generoso del Castillo of OJ6 (office of the AFP deputy chief of staff for comptrollership); and former military auditor Divina Cabrera.
The others who were sued and are still in the service were Brig. Gen. Benito de Leon, AFP management and fiscal office head; Col. Robert Arevalo of the Army; Col. Gilbert Gapay and Maj. Emerson Angulo of the Air Force; and Capt. Kenneth Paglinawan of the Navy.
Rabusa, whose body is half paralyzed after he suffered a stroke, told Radyo Inquirer in February he decided to break his silence after asking for a sign from God.
“I could no longer stand it. I hid this in my heart, my conscience. You know what I think, my stroke, this is bad karma,” he told Radyo Inquirer.
As chief of the budget division in OJ6 beginning 2000, Rabusa said he had “personal knowledge of the rampant irregularities in the military establishment.”
Rabusa’s 87-page complaint detailed the conversion of funds in the AFP through the Special Allotment Release Orders that the comptroller’s office processed and turned over to the chiefs of staff for their disposal. Most of these funds were unaudited.
Rabusa had claimed that AFP chiefs of staff also received send-off (pabaon) and welcome cash gifts and other questionable monthly payoffs.
He first made the disclosure during the Senate inquiry into the plea bargain between government prosecutors and Garcia—Rabusa’s former boss— who has himself been accused of plunder.
According to Rabusa, his predecessor revealed to him the questionable practice of maintaining slush funds through the so-called Operating Program and Budget (OPB) and the Provisions for Command-Directed Activities (PCDA).
The OPB is a document that serves as the basis for allotting a budget to various units of the AFP.
The PCDA, on the other hand, serves as the source of reserve funds for use during contingency operations, and is controlled by the chief of staff.
“I was informed … that this process had long been present in the OJ6 and because I would be occupying a vital position in the OJ6, to which my participation in the process is extremely important, it was imperative that I understood the system and gave my 100-percent cooperation to the people in charge,” Rabusa said.
He said his first multimillion release of funds took place a few days after he assumed office—involving P40 million, of which Ligot supposedly got P22.5 million and former Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes P10 million.
Rabusa said the OPB and the PCDA had no legal basis because they did not always follow the annual military budget, as approved by Congress.
“The funds are utilized by the misappropriation of another approved expense class (such as those intended for military personnel’s wages) and by the conversion of funds to cash using intelligence projects to be given to the chief of staff and other top officials,” Rabusa alleged.
He said that through the OPB and PCDA, the implementation of activities that were unprogrammed, or emergency in nature, was accommodated.
“They likewise give flexibility to the AFP Chief of Staff to implement projects and activities based on his thrust or priorities, as stated in his programs during his tenure,” Rabusa said.
He said his superiors made it “imperative” that he understood the system.
No questions asked
“Anything that the Chief of Staff will tell the OJ6 to allocate, whether it is cash or fund release, we have to abide by his instructions and strictly speaking, ‘no questions asked,’” he added.
Rabusa said he also made releases for the “East Timor Fund” intended for Filipino soldiers serving as peacekeepers in East Timor. He said one release of P6 million went to refurbishing the firearms for the military intelligence service, instead of for the peacekeepers’ use.
He named one Ebbie Pelayo as a frequent military contractor who got funds to procure supplies and other needs of the OJ6 and the office of the chief of staff.
During his time at OJ6, Rabusa said, one “intriguing cash allotee” was another retired chief of staff, Lisandro Abadia, who he claimed was getting P1 million monthly and only Villanueva, Cimatu and Garcia knew why.
There were also releases worth P1.76 million monthly to the defense department intended for intelligence and security at the time when Reyes was defense secretary.
Rabusa also said he turned over to Garcia P500,000 on three occasions and that Garcia told him this was intended for former Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay, then chair of the defense committee of the House of Representatives.
Both Reyes and Pichay denied any wrongdoing. In February, shortly after appearing at the Senate inquiry, Reyes later fired a bullet into his chest, killing himself.
War with Moro rebels
Rabusa presented documents which he said came from his successor, Lt. Col. Romeo Mateo, on various confidential civil-military operations projects approved by Reyes and Reyes’ predecessor as defense secretary, Orlando Mercado.
As the releases benefited the intelligence service, Rabusa said the chief accountant, Del Castillo, made certifications of the projects and would have kept all financial records. He claimed both Del Castillo and auditor Cabrera got kickbacks.
Rabusa also presented documents on the supposed misuse of funds, such as those intended for soldier’s salaries that were used to buy ammunition for the war against the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front during the Estrada presidency, the aborted purchase of unmanned aerial vehicles from Israel where $2 million was spent for “demonstration fee,” and integration of former members of the Moro National Liberation Front.
Rabusa also put in writing what he knew about the cash gifts purportedly given to Villanueva (P165 million), Reyes (P50 million), Cimatu (P85 million) during their retirement or trips.
Asked to comment on the Rabusa lawsuit, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said: “We have a constitutional presumption that a person is innocent until proven guilty. Let’s just allow the process in the DoJ to resolve the cases,” With a report from Christine O. Avendaño
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