MANILA (3rd UPDATE) - Charges for plunder or violation of Republic Act 7080 were filed at Department of Justice (DOJ) today by former military budget officer George Rabusa for the alleged series of conversions of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) funds.
Included in the plunder complaint are former AFP chiefs Diomedio Villanueva, Roy Cimatu and Efren Abu.
Rabusa also included former military comptrollers Carlos Garcia and Jacito Ligot, who are both facing separate plunder charges before the Sandiganbayan. He said the case before the DOJ against the 2 is different.
ABS-CBN tried to get statements from Cimatu and Abu but their mobile phones were switched off.
The mobile phone of Garcia's lawyer was unreachable too.
Ligot's counsel said they will comment only after receiving a copy of the complaint.
According to Rabusa's sworn statement, the Provisions for Command Directed Activities (PCDA) and operating program and budget (OPB) funds were misappropriated and converted to cash using intelligence projects to be given to the chief of staff and others.
Some of these offenses are allegedly partial conversion, while others are full conversion or ghost projects where "the money is not utilized for anything" and is just "pocketed by the commander of the unit or chief of office .
Rabusa's laywer Atty. Noel Malaya said, basically, respondents "received the SARO [Special Allotment Release Order], sent the allotment advise to converting units and then the converting units convert it to cash, returns it to J6 (Office of AFP comptroller) and then after the cash is received by J6, the office of the Chief of Staff disburses the money the way they please."
Rabusa's complaint is composed of 86 pages, its annexes total 21 folders comprising documentary evidence such as cash vouchers for cash advances, fund receipts, payment particulars and other receipts such as those for meals, car repairs, travels and others.
Rabusa said he is confident that the DOJ will find probable cause to file the information before the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan because they have documentary evidence as well as testimonial evidence executed by "witnesses who were also part of the fund conversion process."
'Innocent until proven guilty'
AFP Spokesman Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. said the officers and men who were charged for plunder by Rabusa are innocent until proven guilty.
Mabanta said he assumes the accused are now preparing for their defense. He said, "their guilt will still have to be proven in court."
Mabanta added that just like other institution, they are also interested in finding out the truth in the allegations made by their former budget officer.
"It is the AFP, among any other entity, is the one who really wants to know the truth behind this," he added.
Mabanta said "they are more than willing to clear themselves, and look at this as an opportunity to clear themselves."
He also clarified that the allegations made by Rabusa happened ten years ago.
The spokesman said the impression created out of the revelations is that the massive corruption among military men is still being practiced until today.
Mabanta said "there has been a lot of reforms since then." For instance, "the J6 has already been dissolved into four different offices."
As to whether the AFP will provide legal assistance to active officers included in the plunder charge, Mabanta said the AFP leadership will still have to assess this.
But for the retired military officers, Mabanta said they will have to get their own private lawyers and shoulder their own legal expenses.
The Palace assured that the three former AFP chiefs of staff and other officials facing plunder charges will be given due process.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said it is up to the DOJ to resolve these cases.
'Fruit of my labor'
In an interview with radio dzMM, Rabusa said, “this is the fruit of my labor in the last 3 months…this is the ultimate goal [as to why] I came out in public, to support the program of [President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III] against corruption…”
“Go, go, go tayo. I started this, I will finish it,” stated Rabusa, who also said many more pieces of evidence will be revealed at the DOJ that are different from those already revealed in the Senate.
He said there are “2 boxes” of evidence in his safekeeping, which will be presented there. He said these will help counter the officials’ previous refusal to answer questions in the Senate.
Rabusa attached the testimonies of witnesses Perla Valerio and Lt. Col. Romeo Mateo in his complaint.
Rabusa came out as a surprise witness in the Senate, when the latter was conducting hearings on the plea bargain deal forged between Garcia and the Office of the Ombudsman.
He revealed how deep corruption has affected the military, starting from the top brass. He claimed several officials illegally converted soldiers’ funds to “going away” or “welcoming gifts” for bosses. -- with reports from Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News; Jenny Reyes, ABS-CBN News; Ira Pedrasa, abs-cbnNEWS.com