Ex-AFP ‘bagman’ names bosses in fund scam
George Rabusa had 12 bank accounts with wife and sold 1 house in Orlando, Florida
MANILA, Philippines - Six years after he was indicted in the Garcia scam, former Army Col. George Rabusa today admitted he served as the bagman for senior military generals and civilian officials who got payoffs from the Armed Forces.
Rabusa, a longtime budget officer at the AFP office of the deputy chief of staff for comptrollership (J6), named three former chiefs of staff as beneficiaries of “converted cash” from the military: Angelo Reyes, Diomedio Villanueva, and Roy Cimatu.
Reyes himself got at least P50 million “pabaon” (going-away gift) from the converted cash fund when he retired in 2001, according to Rabusa.
The late Army Capt. Rene Jarque, a staunch critic of the illegal conversion of AFP funds, had written in Newsbreak about this pabaon system in the AFP.
Reyes is former defense secretary who ran under a party-list group in the 2010 elections. Cimatu is current ambassador to the Middle East, while Villanueva served as a postmaster general.
Rabusa himself ran—but lost—for mayor of Sugod, Southern Leyte, in 2007.
Facing a Senate probe on the controversial plea bargain deal between retired general Carlos Garcia and the Ombudsman, Rabusa acknowledged what everyone in the AFP has known all along: that as budget officer from 2001 to 2004, he kept vaults in his office to keep the millions of pesos and dollars that he would give to visiting military officers and officials of civilian agencies that the military has been dealing with.
He said the military paid off agencies such as the Commission on Audit, and even had budget allotted for aides of the President and the AFP Liaison Office of Legislative Affairs (LOLA). It’s the LOLA that deals with senators and congressmen to facilitate the AFP’s congressional needs.
It was a different Rabusa that appeared at the Senate today. When he was called to testify in 2004, he sounded cocky and gave motherhood statements to queries about his role as a budget officer. Today, Rabusa was a willing witness, backed by his lawyer who brought him to Sen. Jinggoy Estrada.
His testimony shows what he wants the senators and the public to believe: that he was merely receiving orders from his bosses.
From 1999 to 2004, Rabusa served 2 comptrollers: Jacinto Ligot (Nov. 1999-March 2001) and Garcia (March 2001-March 2004). They all belonged to what was described then as the “comptroller mafia.”
Newsbreak exposed Ligot’s unexplained wealth in 2004. At the time, Rabusa’s former boss had P60 million in undeclared properties in the Philippines and abroad.
|The wife of Angelo Reyes was the favorite shopping partner of the wife of Gen. Ligot
It was Ligot who, by Rabusa’s own admission today, gave Rabusa leeway to control funds that were meant for the brigades and commands, so that commanders had to visit him in Camp Aguinaldo to ask for their share of the converted funds. “He gave me discretion, he delegated functions to us,” Rabusa said in Pilipino during today’s hearing, referring to Ligot.
Ligot was replaced by Garcia in 2001; Angelo Reyes was AFP chief of staff of then.
Reyes and Ligot were very close; their wives were shopping and ballroom dancing partners, as Newsbreak reported in 2004.
In their heyday, Mrs. Erlinda Ligot often traveled to California with Mrs. Teresita Reyes. In 2004 alone, we reported that Mrs. Ligot traveled to California 4 times. Mrs. Reyes joined her in 2 of those trips.
In June 2003, the 2 military wives traveled to LA together, based on immigration records obtained by Newsbreak at the time.
Rabusa’s fat bank accounts
Rabusa’s lifestyle was not far behind from that of his bosses’.
Inventory of Rabusa's bank accounts:
SECURITY BANK CORP.
12 Bank Accounts
(4 US dollar accounts; 8 peso accounts)
LAND BANK OF THE PHILIPPINES
2 Bank Accounts
BANK OF THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS
2 Bank Accounts
1 Bank Account
Records submitted to the Court of Appeals in 2004 at the height of the Garcia investigation showed that Rabusa himself kept the following accounts under his and his wife’s (Debbie) names:
The same records submitted to the CA showed that in February 2004, Rabusa paid a premium of US$ 132,485.00 for the insurance of his 2 daughters.
US property documents sent to government prosecutors also showed that on June 20, 2002, the Rabusas sold their house in Orlando Florida for US$153,000 to a certain Rolando Cabanban.
After the arrest of Garcia in 2004, the military also put Rabusa under house arrest. The Ombudsman included him in the charge sheet but only Garcia was implicated in the plunder case.
The case against the Rabusa in the military never prospered. He opted for early retirement in 2004 to run for mayor.
As early as 2002, one Army officer filed an anonymous complaint against Rabusa with the Ombudsman, but this was eventually dismissed.
It’s easy to understand why he got away.
Rabusa was looked up to as the padrino of many officers. He sponsored their parties, travels abroad, and allowances.
When 10 of his PMA classmates went on a 6-month schooling at the AFP Command and General Staff College (CGSC) in Fort Bonifacio, he gave each of them a monthly allowance of P5,000; a one-time research fee of P10,000 and funds for “R and R.” He was then a lieutenant colonel receiving barely P20,000 a month.
When it was his turn to go to CGSC in 2001, he treated his PMA classmates who were with him in that batch to a trip abroad after graduation.
There’s another officer who also apparently got away: Col. Antonio Ramon ”Sonny” Lim, who also served as a budget aide of both Ligot and Garcia. The Ombudsman got wind of his alleged involvement in the “comptroller troika” during their investigation of Garcia.
It was Lim who replaced Rabusa as chief of J6’s modernization division. He was also Rabusa’s successor as J6’s budget officer in 2002. — Glenda M. Gloria