Would these current whistleblower revelations nail down another general? I have my doubts.
True, the exposes of George Rabusa and Sonny Lim are helping the AFP high command go through a much-needed public cleansing. It’s a perfect time for it: the incumbent chief of staff, Gen. Ricardo David Jr., is retiring next month. President Aquino has every reason to appoint someone strong enough to make substantial changes and who will stay long enough to see those changes through.
But it’s unfortunate that Rabusa and Lim are singing at a time when their revelations matter the least.
Former military comptroller Carlos Garcia is already out on bail. He had withdrawn at least P128 million from his now-frozen bank accounts. All Rabusa could say about him is that Garcia gave verbal orders to give money to this and that chief of staff.
Those particular orders were not documented, and there is no paper trail of where the money actually went—precisely because they were delivered in cash. The trail in fact begins and ends with Rabusa, who opened the questionable bank accounts from which he said he withdrew the cash. Those documents he showed at the Senate hearing today will mean nothing if not connected to other papers and other signatories.
And before we get carried away, Rabusa’s claims about Roy Cimatu and Diomedio Villanueva constitute—so far—hearsay.
At the Senate and in media interviews, Rabusa has been consistent: the only reason he knows Villanueva got P160 million and Cimatu received P80 million in pabaon, a going-away gift when they retired as chief of staff, was that Garcia told him they did.
Rabusa does not know it for a fact. He admitted in one of his interviews that when he later went to Villanueva for financial help and mentioned the pabaon, Villanueva sounded like he did not get it.
That’s not all. With Villanueva getting P160 M and Cimatu P80 M, in Rabusa’s words, what does that make Reyes who got a measly P50 M—a saint?
And what does Reyes, a longtime patron of Rabusa, stand to lose in the current scandal?
His name, yes. But it’s important to note that Reyes is already out of government and just lost a party-list election bid. Will the paper trail—if any—land him in jail? On radio Friday morning, Rabusa had only the kindest words for his former boss. Reyes’s only fault, according to the whistleblower, was that he took the P50 million (which, incidentally is the minimum amount required for a plunder charge). Otherwise, he was a “good” chief of staff. Huh?
Rabusa has acknowledged that he has burned the bulk of documentary evidence in his possession. What he has are bits and pieces that will tell a part of the story. (In contrast, Ombudsman incompetence is now fully documented that the impeachment case at the House of Representatives may prove to be the biggest beneficiary of the ongoing hearings.)
It seems the strategy now is to publicly indict select military officers and civilians, who could then be summoned by the Senate to complete the story. Notice how constantly Isafp (Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines) is being mentioned here. This could lead to other revelations, because some of the Isafp officers mentioned by Rabusa today were also linked to the “Hello, Garci” scandal. Now that will be the day!
So let’s brace ourselves for a prolonged, out-of-court telenovela.
Today, Rabusa took pains in claiming that he resents being called “godfather” or “moneybag,” presumably feeling the heat from fellow officers who call him that and are completely cynical toward his exposes. He clarifies he did not serve as a moneybag since it was the chiefs of staff’s executive assistants who picked up the cash from him (and maybe literally put the money in bags). And then he proceeds to name them. But where did these assistants get the money again? From Rabusa. So what’s the point of that distinction?
A Twitter follower advised me to “let him be.” After all, he’s spilling the beans. But where is this headed, really? And to sound like the ultimate spoiler, I ask, what have they given up, really?
Aside from burning crucial papers that could link him and his bosses to corruption, Rabusa also chose politics as a way out. He ran in 2007 to give the military no choice but to retire him early. Lim, on the other hand, chose to quietly cool his heels in the Air Force, sans any charges.
Within the military, there’s a degree of cynicism toward Rabusa and Lim.
From military officers of Rabusa’s and Lim’s generation, I got a mouthful. The 2 were the “architects” of this most creative form of budgeting in their time, they say, and now they’re being hailed as heroes? Are you telling me, says one Army officer, that when your boss tells you to produce P100 million from a non-existent budget, you as a responsible officer won’t dare tell the boss it can’t be done?
The option Rabusa and Lim chose then was to make things happen, he says. By making things happen, they were not only helping their commanders, they were helping their own careers.
But this is all water under the bridge now, I tell another agitated colonel. Rabusa and Lim have come out precisely to testify on military wrongdoing that has to be stopped. They have said sorry. Shouldn’t the public at least credit them for that?
With a self-righteous pout, he shot back: they should credit officers who said “no” from Day One.
Of course if we waited for that we wouldn’t be witness to these jaw-dropping revelations. Exposes have their way of collectively bringing us to a state of glee, where the corrupt are unmasked.
But when the curtains close, we can only hope that the rigorous, painstaking and often quiet work of prosecuting all of them would earn the same public support and enthusiasm.
TAGS: Angelo Reyes, Antonio Ramon "Sonny" A. Lim, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), corruption, Gen. Diomedio Villanueva, Lt. Col. George Rabusa, plunder, Roy Cimatu