MANILA, Philippines - The military is moving to address a possible backlash on the morale of soldiers following the recent approval by the Sandiganbayan on the plea bargain agreement between the Office of the Ombudsman and former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia.
"This is saddening. It is saddening to note that these things are happening at a time when we really want to push for reforms," Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Commodore Miguel Jose Rodriguez told a press briefing, referring to the anti-graft court's decision.
The military had opposed the plea bargaining agreement, which sought to drop Garcia's P303-million plunder case in exchange for the return to government coffers of P135 million and Garcia pleading guilty to 2 lesser offenses.
"It would have helped us if the decision was otherwise," said Rodriguez, adding that they are addressing concerns created by the decision within the military establishment and the public.
Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, a former Armed Forces chief, earlier warned that the Sandigabayan decision may result in demoralization in the AFP ranks. Worse, he said they may rise up in arms because they are not seeing people punished for embezzling military funds.
"We are looking into that. In fact, I and the chief of staff talked about the alleged rumblings," said Rodriguez, adding that they look up to Biazon as a "barometer of sorts."
"We are not saying that that is without basis. As I said, he is a barometer. As of now, we are thanking him (for the disclosure) and we will look into it. From where he comes, I'm sure there must be something to it. That is why, we want to look into it and then address that immediately," he said.
Nevertheless, Rodriguez sought to downplay talks of a possible military adventurism, saying the military has grown more professional.
"We should not be doing that anymore," he said.
Rodriguez said Oban is more keen on addressing the effect on the military of the Sandiganbayan decision. "If we do that, that will already be addressing the external audience because you (public) are watching us," he said.
Rodriguez said the military will launch information and education programs on the reforms that have been undertaken since the corruption in the Armed Forces was uncovered.
Garcia's malpractices were unearthed in December 2004.
"Information on what we are doing should flow. First of all, the information on reforms should cascade down, and they (soldiers) should be part of the reforms," he said.
Rodriguez said soldiers should be able to impart to the soldiers that the illegal conversion scheme, which is among the sources of corruption in the Armed Forces, is no longer happening.
Rodriguez said Brig. Gen. Gilberto Roa, the military's judge advocate general, is coordinating with the Office of the Solicitor General on the legal remedies that are available in response to the Sandiganbayan decision.
"This is all part of the legal process and then we have to respond legally also to that. They are studying what remedies are available to us," he said.
He also disclosed that Oban is due to address the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on Wednesday to detail the reform measures adopted to address corruption in the Armed Forces. When he became AFP chief in March, Oban vowed that his major thrust will be a crusade against corruption.
"What the chief of staff will relay to the blue ribbon senate committee is what the Armed Forces has done in order to address the allegations," said Rodriguez, adding Oban's message would also deal with the recent AFP Financial and Logistics Summit.
"This AFP Financial and Logistics Summit has come up with 18 recommendations, and these... will cover aspects to personnel, logistics, law and order, training. All of these, I'm sure, will make a lot of changes in the procedures that we do in the Armed Forces," he said.