Palace to tap UN in AFP fund mess probe

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 15 2011 09:59 PM | Updated as of Feb 16 2011 11:14 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang on Tuesday said it will seek the United Nations' assistance in probing the alleged corruption within the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) involving UN peacekeeping funds.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said documents presented by former state auditor Heidi Mendoza and assistance from the UN will help government determine how funds intended for peacekeepers were diverted.

"We've been apprised of the diversion through the testimony of Heidi Mendoza and she has gone through the records and she has also looked to the documents as well. So, we would be more than happy with the cooperation of UN to provide us with all the necessary avenues to determine where the diversion happened," Lacierda said.

He added: "As you know, we are passionate about our anti-corruption promise and this is part of our commitment to see to the bottom of the whole anti-corruption allegations in the military during the time of General (Jacinto) Ligot and Colonel (George) Rabusa. So, yes, we intend to ask for request to the UN."

UN offers help

The United Nations on Tuesday offered to assist the Philippine government in its investigation of the alleged malversation of UN peacekeeping funds intended for Filipino troops.

Palace to tap UN in AFP fund mess probe 1The Department of Peacekeeping Operations said that while the alleged diversion of UN funds is a national matter, it assured that the UN "will assist if requested" by the Philippine government.

It added that as of February 12, 2011, the DPKO “has not received inquiries/complaints at this stage from any specific contingent regarding payment.”

Ghost projects

Former state auditor Mendoza earlier revealed that UN funds were diverted by military officials through double charging and ghost projects.

She said one project involved the repair of a C-130 aircraft in 2002, which was double charged to both the UN fund and a depot maintenance program of the Joint US Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG).

She said P9.1 million in fuel expenses were also double charged to the Balikatan and UN funds. Even worse, the US government reimbursed the Armed Forces the full P9.1 million.

She said that in 2001, a military officer personally picked up a $5 million cheque from UN Headquarters in New York but the amount was not reflected in AFP bank accounts.

She also revealed a missing P50 million out of a P200 million UN reimbursement cheque signed by then military comptroller Carlos Garcia.

Standard procedures apply

For its part, the UN said it does "not enforce measures to keep track of how (UN peacekeeping) funds are used or disbursed by the Member States."

The DPKO said all payments covering expenses related to peacekeeping operations are made in accordance with standard procedures.

“The UN deposits the funds into a bank account given to the UN by the relevant Troop and Police Contributing Countries (TCCs and PCCs),” the DPKO stated.

In the case of the Philippines, “since the [Philippine Government’s] contribution of troops to the International Force for East Timor (INTERFET) peace operation in 1999, all Contingent Owned Equipment (COE) payments made to the Government of the Philippines have been issued under cover letters to the Permanent Representative of the Philippine Mission of the Philippines. These payment instructions are received by the UN in writing from the Permanent Mission and signed by the Philippine Ambassador to the United States,” said the DPKO.

Reimbursements of peacekeeping related expenses are paid to UN member-states either by cheque or wire transfer. Before 1 July 2005, a Government could elect to be paid by cheque or wire transfer. After that date, only bank wire transfer has been used.

The chief of the AFP Resource Management Office earlier said there were no records available on how the UN funds were used prior to 2005. With a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News