MANILA, Philippines - A defense department probe on alleged corruption in the Armed Forces hit a snag after probers could not access key witnesses who could shed light on the anomalies.
In a press briefing, DND spokesman Eduardo Batac said a special investigating committee, chaired by DND legal affairs chief Patrick Velesto, asked for a 15-day extension to continue the investigation.
“The adhoc investigating body of DND has come up with a request for an extension of another 15 days from the deadline of February 28. This is in view of the unavailability of the resource persons that were supposed to be invited,” he said. He said the defense chief approved the request for extension.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin formed the investigating committee last January 28 to investigate allegations that former Armed Forces chiefs Diomedio Villanueva, Roy Cimatu and Angelo Reyes received millions of pesos in "pabaon" (sendoff money) upon their retirement.
Separate congressional inquiries also revealed alleged diversions of military funds to a discretionary fund used by the 3 chiefs of staff.
Batac said former military budget officer Lt. Col. George Rabusa, his aide Col. Antonio “Sonny” Lim and former government auditor Heidi Mendoza could not be summoned to the defense committee probe because they had to appear in the ongoing congressional hearing on the corruption issues.
“Congress has already stipulated that these persons may not be available until after they have concluded the hearings,” he said.
The DND spokesman said the appearance of resource persons “depends on Congress telling us (at the DND) that these resource persons may be made available already.”
"There is no way that we can force them to attend, otherwise we will have to resort to judicial process, which takes time," he said.
In the event the resource persons do not appear before the investigating body, investigators will then refer to the records of the congressional hearings.
Batac also said that the DND investigating body will be focusing more on the reforms that can be derived from these anomalies.
He noted that the Congress can recommend the prosecution of people who would be found involved in the irregularities.