15 May 2009

Digging More Dirt In the Military

Photo courtesy of Noel Celis
Lt. Senior Grade Nancy Gadian alleged that there were irregularities in the handling of funds for the Balikatan exercises in 2007 and it has been a "dirty pattern" that has been going on in the Philippine military since then.

The Balikatan exercise is an annual joint exercises with US troops under the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA). It has been conducted for 25 times already with the last exercise held in the Bicol region last 1-30 April 2009.

In an interview with GMANews.TV, Gadian claimed that "Hindi malinis, parang palaging may bawas. Sa experience ko, may pattern ito [It is not clean, the amount requested always falls short of what is received. In my experience, this has a pattern]."

She cited a particular case of the PhP 2.3 million fund released for Balikatan 2007’s CMO event, which she said was an "incomplete release" because the supposed disbursement should have amounted to PhP 4 million.

"Yung PhP 4 million na ‘yon napag-usapan na ng RP at US. Pag nag-agree na ang two countries, considered approved na ‘yon. Pero bakit ganito lang ang ibinigay sa amin? [That PhP 4 million was agreed upon by RP and US. When the two countries agree, it’s considered approved. But why is it that this was the only amount that was given to us?]," she said.

If this claim is true, then it just showed a disgraceful catalogue of wasteful vanity of some officers at the expense of ordinary soldiers in the field. The Commission on Audit (COA) should instruct its personnel and lawyers to claim the money back from the charlatans in the military, especially those who indulge in full-expense trips abroad with their wives and kids.

A quick dispensing of justice and confiscation of asset should teach these arrogant military officers from trying to fool the public with their meaningless photo ops and fetish for everything extravagant. Besides, it would preempt the President from again giving a highly paid and expense-soaked job as a Special Middle-East Envoy or something to these men-in-uniforms with questionable integrity.

Gadian further claimed that Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, former chief of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom), was not the only official who allegedly benefited from the PhP 46 million fund for the 23rd joint exercises between the Philippines and the US in 2007. However, she refused to identify them right now.

Why not? If Gadian can give the name of Lt. Gen. Cedo, then there should be no hindrance or legal obstacle for her to name the others, unless she is looking to negotiate for an acceptable decision by the Navy’s Efficiency and Separation Board (ESB) over her alleged mishandling of a portion of the Balikatan fund.

Whatever comes out from all these public image-building, one thing is clear. The scope for ongoing failure by the military to clean up its ranks is just infinite.