Joker wants accounting of AFP modernization fund

By Lynda Jumilla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 13 2011 12:08 AM | Updated as of Jan 13 2011 08:08 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Joker Arroyo wants an accounting of the multibillion-peso proceeds from the sale of Fort Bonifacio in Taguig some 15 years ago, before government holds another auction to sell Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame.

A portion of the proceeds of the sale was supposed to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and improve living conditions of soldiers and their families.

"What happened to that [AFP] trust fund?" Arroyo asked. "When Fort Bonifacio, a military camp, was sold, it did not benefit the AFP or our soldiers. Others benefited from the sale of military camps, not our soldiers. Must it happen again?"

He was referring to the AFP Modernization Act under Republic Act 7898 passed in 1995, which created a trust fund to be used exclusively for the AFP modernization program partly funded by proceeds from the sale of military camps.

In a statement, Arroyo cautioned the Aquino administration against rushing the sale of what he described as "our realty jewels" – Camp Aguinaldo which serves as AFP headquarters, and Camp Crame, which is the Philippine National Police’s base.

Arroyo recalled that shortly after the removal of American troops from Clark, Subic, and other US military installations in the country, Malacañang in 1992 created the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) under Republic Act 7227.

The BCDA was funded from the sale of Metro Manila camps, including Fort Bonifacio and Villamor Airbase.

He said the proceeds were supposed to be spent, as follows:

  • 32.5% to finance the transfer of the AFP military camps and the construction of new camps, the self-reliance, and modernization program of the AFP;
  • the concessional and long-term housing loan and livelihood assistance to AFP officers, enlisted men and their families, and the rehabilitation and expansion of the AFP medical facilities;
  • 50% to finance the conversion and commercial use of Clark and Subic military reservations and their extensions;
  • 5% to finance the concessional and long-term housing loan assistance for the homeless of Metro Manila, Olongapo City, Angeles City and other affected municipalities contiguous to the bases.

The rest, he said, was to be remitted to the National Treasury to be appropriated thereafter by Congress for the sole purpose of financing programs and projects "vital for the economic upliftment of the Filipino people."

Arroyo said it remains unclear whether the funds were spent according to the original intention.

"The question keeps arising: was the one-third was ever spent for the benefit of the armed forces, or the housing, livelihood, and medical assistance to the AFP officers and enlisted men and their families?" he asked.

"We see the spanking Global City in Fort Bonifacio, home previously of the Army and now big businesses. We see our AFP – with ‘Jurassic’ equipment and squatter housing for our troops. And while Clark and Subic are in also in full business bloom, our policemen and soldiers, it is reported, do not even have enough bullets for target practice."