Escudero: Lim should return ill-gotten wealth

By David Dizon,

Posted at Feb 15 2011 01:24 PM | Updated as of Feb 16 2011 04:12 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Francis Escudero on Tuesday said whistleblower Col. Antonio Ramon "Sonny" Lim should be made to return any ill-gotten wealth he received while working under military budget officer George Rabusa.

Escudero said Lim should say how much ill-gotten wealth he got, in the same way that Rabusa admitted getting P50 million while working under military comptrollers Carlos Garcia and Jacinto Ligot.

"Kasama siguro sa pagbabalik loob sa pagbabago at tunay na paglilinis ng sarili ang pagbabalik din ng anumang nakuha sa iligal na pamamaraan," he told ANC's Headstart.

Both Rabusa and Lim have applied for witness protection after testifying in the Senate Blue Ribbon committee inquiry on military corruption.

The senator said the return of ill-gotten wealth is the central issue of the Senate Blue Ribbon inquiry, which is investigating the plea bargaining agreement of former military comptroller Carlos Garcia.

Under the plea bargain, Garcia would return P135 million in assets and plead guilty to indirect bribery and money laundering while escaping a plunder charge.

Escudero said he also has questions about Lim's decision to testify especially since he remains active in the military. He said Rabusa earlier admitted having a change of heart and testifying in the Senate after getting a stroke and losing his wealth to legal fees and medical bills.

Lim is currently assigned as director for operations of the Philippine Air Force’s (PAF) 3rd Air Division stationed in Zamboanga City.

He served various positions at the Air Force headquarters at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City before being assigned to the office of the AFP deputy chief of staff for logistics from 1999-2004. It was there that he served under Rabusa  and participated in the alleged diversion of military funds to military chiefs.

In his testimony, Lim said he helped Rabusa prepare the cash disbursements for military chiefs from the so-called Provision Command-Directed Activity (PCDA) slush fund.

The Air Force officer also corroborated Rabusa's testimony that the latter kept 4 big vaults full of cash in his office.

Too much discretion leads to corruption

Escudero, meanwhile, blamed low salaries and too much discretionary power among officers for the proliferation of corruption in the military.

"All corruption is rooted in discretion. Minimize discretion and you minimize corruption always," he said.

He also noted that low salaries, especially of military generals, can sometimes tempt these officers to look for other sources of income.

He said some high-ranking generals even go out in "owner-type" jeeps while their subordinates have better looking cars.

"You have to give them a good amount by way of a salary so that they will have dignity and respect to perform the function of their office," he said.