Philippine official: Military graft 'staggering'

AP News
Posted: Mar 23, 2011 3:45 AM
Philippine official: Military graft 'staggering'

A "staggering" amount of Philippine military funds disappeared in recent years, a defense official said Wednesday, promising new safeguards to prevent future corruption.

Long entrenched in Philippine society, corruption is an especially explosive issue in the inadequately equipped and underfunded military and has sparked several rebellions by disgruntled troops in the past 25 years.

Department of National Defense spokesman Eduardo Batac would not say exactly how much money has gone missing, but said that an investigation's initial findings indicated massive corruption.

"Evidently, there were irregularities that were committed," Batac told a news conference. "Even to us at the department and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, the amounts involved are staggering."

In the latest corruption scandal to rock the 126,000-strong military, former military budget officer Lt. Col. George Rabusa testified before the Senate in January that three former military chiefs of staff pocketed millions of dollars in funds intended for combat, intelligence, troop salaries and a military hospital.

Philippine funds for joint military exercises with U.S. troops and U.N. reimbursements for expenses incurred by Filipino peacekeeping troops abroad were also allegedly diverted to a special fund from which the generals stole massive amounts of money, according to Rabusa.

The three retired generals denied Rabusa's allegations, which were made under oath before the Senate. One of the three, prominent general turned politician, Angelo Reyes, later committed suicide.

Batac said at least 86 proposals were being finalized by the military investigation committee to shield military logistical purchases, U.N. peacekeeping funds and money intended for combat and troops from future corruption.

The defense department, he said, would focus on anti-graft reforms and let Department of Justice prosecutors file complaints against military officials accused of massive graft.

Rabusa has submitted sworn statements to the justice department to bolster possible plunder and graft charges against several generals, officers and conniving government auditors.