DOJ to probe military officers' kin, dummies

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 25 2011 05:06 PM | Updated as of Feb 26 2011 08:04 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) will not limit its investigation into alleged corruption in the military to present and past military officials, but will extend the scope of its probe to members of the officials' families and possible dummies.

This was bared by justice chief Leila de Lima in an interview with reporters in the wake of Thursday's Senate hearing into a plea bargaining deal between former Armed Forces comptroller Carlos Garcia and the Office of the Ombudsman.

Garcia is facing plunder charges before the anti-graft court but entered into a controversial plea bargaining agreement with the Ombudsman.

In Thursday's Senate hearing, Senator Franklin Drilon presented documents that showed how former military comptroller Jacinto Ligot's brother-in-law, Edgardo Yambao, was able to amass at least P300 million in wealth, in spite of declaring he had "no income," in 5 years.

Yambao is facing a P135.2 million forfeiture case at the Sandiganbayan, along with Ligot, Ligot's wife, Erlinda, and the Ligot couple's children.

"They ought to be covered basta mayroon talagang indications na may link katulad niyan di pa napakaano naman, yung mga points na niri-raise ni Sen. Drilon, those are very valid points na apparently, kung talagang totoo yung mga properties na yun, General Ligot is obviously using members of his immediate family and normally, ganoon nga ang ginagawa. So they will be part definitely of the probe. Kasama yun sa work noong isang committee," de lima said.

Apart from a preliminary investigation into a complaint-affidavit which has yet to be filed by military slush fund whistleblower ret. Lt. Col. George Rabusa, de Lima decided to form another committee - a fact-finding committee - which will conduct a broader investigation into alleged corruption in the military.

"That's why I had to create a separate committee because of that, because we expect nga to get more information and more evidence about other people other than those already mentioned  by Col. Rabusa and Col. (Antonio) Lim," de Lima said.

"Even if si Gen. Ligot dati nang na-mention ni Col. Rabusa, but ngayon lumalabas about the brother-in-law, the Yambao spouses, and si Mrs. Ligot,  they should be covered by the investigation," she said.

De Lima bared the Anti-Money Laundering Council( AMLC) is quietly acting on reports surfacing about these alleged pocketing of military funds.

"The AMLC, ang alam ko kumikilos na yun, although most of its proceedings or most of its actions  are also confidential, yung parang sa WPP (witness protection program) rin na confidential while gathering evidence, while tracing the money trail, while trying to access bank records, etc.... AMLC would really do it very discreetly and confidentially," de Lima said.

The Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001 was passed in September 2001 formally defining money laundering as a criminal offense in the Philippines and prescribing penalties for such crimes committed.

The Act also created a central monitoring and implementing council called the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) composed of the Central Bank of the Philippines, Insurance Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission.

"They (AMLC) would be remiss in their mandate kung hindi pa sila gumagalaw ngayon especially na parati naman yata silang present sa mga hearings ng Senate," de Lima added.

Immigration watchlist

Once the preliminary investigation and fact-finding panels are constituted, de Lima said placing subject personalities under immigration watchlist or issuing a hold departure order (HDO) against them is "a very likely, necessary step."

"That is a very likely, necessary step na kapag nag-start na yung proceedings we will be considering that - placing some of them, any, some or all, of those who will be covered by the probe," de Lima said.

"Mayroon kasing leeway or plenary authority  ang secretary of justice to put anyone under watchlist order or hold-departure order. Pwede nga motu propio iyan so that is definitely being considered," she said.

No deadline for Rabusa complaint-affidavit

Asked if she is bent on issuing a deadline for the filing of Rabusa's "comprehensive, extensive complaint-affidavit" which will then serve as basis for constituting a DOJ preliminary investigation panel, de Lima said she is not inclined to.

"It's difficult for me to really impose a deadline. It might be construed as pressuring him but we get assurance especially from his counsel na kung pwede bilis-bilisan na. We're hoping na mayroon nang ma-submit ngayon o kung hindi man ngayon, early next week," de Lima said.