US embassy: We audit grants we gave to Philippine military

by Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 05 2011 12:06 AM | Updated as of Feb 05 2011 07:44 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The US Embassy in Manila has decided not to comment directly on the ongoing exposés surrounding the malversation of funds by top officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Statements from retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa, former AFP budget officer, and those of former state auditor Heidi Mendoza also point to funds from the United Nations as among those missing from AFP coffers.

Rabusa had also mentioned that funds allotted for the annual joint Philippine-US Balikatan military exercises as part of the sources of "pabaon" to high-level AFP officials.

When asked if the United States is also now concerned as to the safety of their own funding, the embassy replied in a text statement: "The United States Government conducts auditing and end-use monitoring to ensure foreign assistance grants are used properly."

The United States is a major source of military assistance by the Philippines through grants and military equipment.

A member of the Transparency and Accountability Network, meanwhile, expressed shock at the systemic corruption revealed in the exposés.

“Ako shocked pa rin ako, kung gaano na ka-pervasive ‘yong corruption. Kasabwat din pala ang COA [Commission on Audit]. Imagine, pati ‘young nagbabantay ay nababahiran na,” said Dean Tony La Viña of the Ateneo School of Government (ASG).

La Viña, a member of TAN, said the latest revelations differ from other scandals like the botched national broadband network deal with ZTE and MegaPacific deals, because these were done with a single action. In comparison, corruption in the AFP entailed many people performing corrupt acts for unknown periods of time.

“What's shocking here is that heneral, colonel, auditor ang gumagawa nito... Mga taong hindi dapat gumagawa ng mga bagay na ganito,” said the ASG dean.

La Viña said that if not managed properly by the current AFP leadership, this exposé could very well spark yet another outrage from the lower ranks of the military.

And while the revelations in no way justify past uprisings from the military like those of Oakwood and Manila Peninsula, the ASG dean said he believes this would make the people more sympathetic to the motivations of junior officers who may become disgruntled.