RP senator seeks eradication of corruption in military
Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV, a former officer of the Philippines Navy who walked out of the Makati City court room, along with a general and some junior officers now facing criminal charges as a consequence of the July 27, 2003 Oakwood mutiny, has warned that another military intervention is expected to occur soon if the host of problems currently facing the military is not resolved in due time.
Trillanes made this revelation in his policy issue paper entitled "Preventing Military Interventions," which he completed in May 2004. According to him, there are two significant causes why at least nine military interventions have taken place in the past. These are internal and external causes. "Internal causes are those attributable to or directly affecting the military organization, while external causes are those attributable to factors external to the military," the paper said.
The paper cited at least 19 internal causes why some 300 junior officers and enlisted personnel occupied the Oakwood Hotel in Makati City on the morning of July 27, 2003. The hotel siege, which held foreign occupants hostage, was peacefully resolved after an agreement was reached where the government would spare all the participants from prosecution in exchange for their return to barracks.
Topping the list is the rampant graft and corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The rest include:
the selling of arms and ammunition by the AFP to the enemies of the state, resulting in the never-ending cycle of war with the insurgents and secessionists at the cost of thousands of lives of civilians and AFP peersonnel; the complicity of Secretary Angelo Reyes and Gen. Diomedio Villanueva in the escape of Abu Sayyaf members through the military cordon during the so-called Lamitan siege in June 2001.
The revolving door policy of choosing the AFP chief of staff, which resulted to having six unproductive chiefs of staff in the three years of the Arroyo Administration; political patronage system in the promotions of senior military commanders (comitted particularly by Secretary Reyes); incompetent AFP commanders resulting in the lack of strategic direction of the AFP; the incompetence and political motivation of then Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes; the incompetence and political motivation of then ISAFP Chief Gen. Victor Corpus.
Lack of logistical support for the officers and men in the field; the issuance of arms and ammunitions by the AFP commanders to politicians; the turnover of captured MILF camps back to the MILF; the abuse and misappropriations of AFP resources by its commanders; the misuse of the AFP by politicians against the interests of the people; the bankruptcy of the Retirement Service and Benefits System (RSBS); very poor medical and health services; low pay of AFP personnel; lack of housing facilities for AFP personnel; lacking or deteriorating military equipment; and the increase of the number of generals, which will further reduce the resources at the front lines.
While the external causes are graft and corruption in government; state-sponsored terrorism as detailed in the paper entitled "The Greenbase Expose", authored by Trillanes, University of the Philippines, 2003; the failure of the Arroyo Administration to deliver the promises made at EDSA II; widespread poverty; and the failing economy as manifested by the runaway budget deficit, rising level of unemployment, falling value of the peso, and the rising costs of commodities.
In view of these problems, Trillanes recommended in his policy paper the creation of a cabinet level agency like the Presidential Adviser on Military Affairs, under the Office of the President. He said that this agency will have oversight powers and clear inter-department relationships with all concerned to prevent overlapping of functions.
He also proposed for the improvements of the RSBS, military procurement system, AFP modernization, medical and health services, and housing for the homeless military personnel. As a matter of intervention, he had suggested for the government to conduct policy researches on how to eradicate corruption in the AFP, rehabilitation of the RSBS, strict application of meritocracy in the AFP promotions system, uplifting of the standard of living of the AFP personnel.
At present, it is common knowledge that majority of the military personnel do not have their own houses. Some are found to be squatting somewhere else. While other are still paying exorbitant monthly rentals so that their take home pay is barely enough to defray the costs of utilities, not to mention the food and education for their dependents. Trillanes argued that there are vast tracts of idle public lands within the proximity of military camps nationwide that can be used for mass housing projects of military personnel. But the national government has not lifted a finger to address this problem.
Another best intervention that the government can do is to grant lowly-paid soldiers salary increases or non-monetary benefits like tax deductions/exemptions, reduction in RSBS contributions, rice subsidy, C-130 flights or ship passes for soldiers going on R & R.
Improvement in the availment of medical and health services to the soldiers and their dependents is another way of helping them cope with the unaffordable costs of private insurance. At the moment, wounded soldiers are being treated at the V. Luna Medical Center in Quezon City. But once they retired from the service, they are no longer entitled for admission in this government hospital. If they and their dependents seek medical check-up and treatment, all they have to do is go to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.
However, many retirees are now afraid to be admitted at Veterans hospital considering that many of the retirees confined there have died under mysterious circumstances. It cannot be validated if this claim is true, but complaints from relatives have sent strong warnings that that hospital is not safe anymore for the military retirees.
Likewise, the paper suggested for the immediate streamlining of the military bureaucracy and the practice of good governance to address the external causes of military interventions. He claimed that the existence of newly created offices for generals in Camp Aguinaldo is exacting a heavy toll on the AFP's resources. As a result, the logistics that are supposed to trickle down to the fields are being restricted. Rather than become a prioritizing the needs of the soldiers at the battle front, the resources are reserved for the maintainance requirements of these useless offices.
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