MANILA, Philippines - (3rd UPDATE) - The web of military corruption also involves lawmakers as well as officials of the Commission on Audit (COA), former military budget officer George Rabusa said.
In the continuation of his bombshell testimony in the Senate, Rabusa said on Monday that former Surigao del Sur Representative Prospero Pichay visited the office of then Armed Forces Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes several times allegedly to partake of the “conversion” of funds in the military.
“Every time he visits the office of the Chief of Staff, [then former military comptroller Carlos] Garcia would call me and direct me to prepare P500,000 for Pichay,” he said.
He said he can’t remember the exact number of times that Pichay supposedly went there. “It will not be less than 3,” he claimed, for which Pichay received no less than P1.5 million.
Pichay was in Congress from 1998 to 2007 or from the 11th to the 13th Congress. In 2007, he ran for the Senate but lost.
He was chairman of House defense committee as well as the Commission on Appointments for the lower House.
As chairman of defense commitee, it was his duty to defend the budget of the Department of National Defense and Armed Forces of the Philippines during plenary and commitee deliberations.
He usually chaired of the commitees with jursidictions over agencies defending the budget of the agency.
Garcia, from whose plunder case sprung the issue on the widespread corruption in the military, said he could not remember any incident involving Pichay.
“I could not recall…[regarding] the narration of a visit of a certain Pichay. I don’t remember something like that happened,” he said.
Garcia only said he knows of Pichay during the budgetary hearings at the lower House.
Rabusa as ‘Central Bank’
Rabusa said he was then called several names, such as “ninong,” “padrino,” and even the “Central Bank,” being the repository of the converted money from different sources from the military’s budget.
“It’s unfair that we’re being called the ‘money bags’ – those are the executive assistants then to the chiefs of staff and vice chiefs of staff. We are called the Central Bank because we convert the money requirements of those on top,” he said.
He named different people who acted as the collectors: Major Deveza of PMA Class '85 for Reyes; Colonel Hilario Atendido of PMA Class '77 and Colonel Bagasin of PMA Class '83 for former Chief of Staff Diomedio Villanueva, and Lt. Col. Benito de Leon for former Chief of Staff Roy Cimatu.
Rabusa even showed a supposed receipt of one transaction with de Leon, whereby the latter received P10 million on June 2002. He said the other documents had already been shredded. He said this is just one incident he clearly recalls.
Rabusa claimed money also reached the hands of some auditors and officials of the Commission on Audit (COA).
Besides earlier funds mentioned from where the “pabaon” is being sourced, Rabusa also named this morning (Feb. 7) the so-called float fund.
This fund was used for other operational expenses, and the keeper makes sure that the content, locked in a vault, should never dwindle to less than P20 million.
At some point, the content was transferred to Garcia. Rabusa said he never knew what came of it.
To replenish the fund, however, money was sourced from the PS or personnel salaries, he said.
Senator Franklin Drilon explained that Congress allots a budget depending on the troop ceiling as opposed to warm bodies on the field. This means there is a buffer or extra cash from the PS budget.
For example, for the year 2011, P44 billion was allotted for PS based on the troop ceiling submitted to Congress. But the ratio of “warm bodies” is only 80% of it, which means a buffer of 20% or roughly P8.8 billion.
The COA connection
Rabusa alleged the funds were diverted to the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) for conversion.
He said former COA commissioner Raul Flores received a regular bribe depending on “his needs…but it would not be less than P200,000 every time we meet.”
Flores was then the officer-in-charge of audit of the intelligence transactions of the ISAFP.
He recalled one incident at Steak House along West Avenue in Quezon City. They tagged along the ISAFP’s resident auditor, Divine Cabrera.
Cabrera herself also allegedly received a portion of the money, but she immediately denied this during Monday's (Feb. 7) hearing.
Cabrera was resident auditor of ISAFP for 13 years up to 2005, which Drilon deemed suspicious. A resident auditor usually stays with an agency for at least 3 years.
In an attempt to refresh Cabrera’s memory, Rabusa said she had even called him once in his office. She supposedly said: “Pare, yung mga dokumento (clearing documents) sa likod ko, marami na masyado. Baka pwede na natin ipasunog.”
In response, Rabusa said: “Hindi pwedeng selective…baka masunog ang buong ISAFP building.”
Cabrera also denied this. “I deny that. Our office then is a mortuary. Mahirap sunugin dahil solid na semento iyon.” -- with reports from Ryan Chua, RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News