Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Plunder in the Philippines, one of many

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Justice (DOJ) started yesterday its preliminary investigation into the plunder complaint filed by retired military budget officer George Rabusa against three former Armed Forces chiefs-of-staff and 19 others.
But in the first hearing, the respondents led by former AFP chiefs Diomedio Villanueva, Roy Cimatu and Efren Abu, and former AFP comptrollers Carlos Garcia and Jacinto Ligot were not present. Their counsels were furnished copies of the amended complaint of Rabusa.
They were given until July 18 to file their respective counter-affidavits. Leader of the panel Prosecutor General Claro Arellano gave them until tomorrow to submit any manifestation if they wanted more time to file their answers.
The other respondents were Maj. Gen. Hilario Atendido, retired Maj. Gen. Epineto Logico, Brig. Gen. Benito de Leon, Col. Cirilo Donato, Col. Roy Devesa, Maj. Emerson Angulo, retired Maj. Ernesto Paranis, Col. Gilbert Gapay, Col. Robert Arevalo and Capt. Kenneth Paglinawan, North Luzon Command head Lt. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan, and retired Maj. Gen. Ernesto Boac.
Rabusa also implicated retired and incumbent state auditors Arturo Besana, Crisanto Gabriel, and Manuel Warren, Generoso del Castillo and Divina Cabrera.
Only Besana attended the DOJ hearing. But he immediately questioned his inclusion in the charge sheet and instead asked the investigating panel to put Rabusa in his place.
Besana asked the DOJ in an open memorandum to remove Rabusa from the witness protection and instead indict him.
“Why was Rabusa placed under the witness protection program? Rabusa was involved in schemes aimed at looting the military’s coffers. He admitted having P200 million deposit in a private bank, pocketed P500,000 as private allowance, amassed illegally an additional P17 million and was charged by the Ombudsman for lying, for dishonesty, for grave misconduct, for conduct unbecoming of a public officer and
for violation of the anti-graft and corrupt practices act,” Besana said.
The auditor claimed that by placing Rabusa under the government witness protection program, “his handlers have unwittingly crafted him into a monster, the like of a Frankenstein, destroying the hierarchical structure of the defense institutions and shaking the very foundation of a nation.”
“Rabusa is now engaged in blackmail and extortion,” adding that the accusations of Rabusa resulted in “traditions ravaged and dishonored. Important names have been smeared.”
Gen. de Leon, through lawyers Melvin Mendoza and Floante Legaspi, also said the DOJ should not have admitted Rabusa’s complaint because he was not able to pay the required filing fees.
Lawyer Edgar Avila, representing Col. Arevalo, added that Rabusa should have filed more than P20 million in docket fees.
“Complainant (Rabusa) alleges that the amount lost due to plunder was approximately P2.1 billion, more or less. He must beforehand pay docket fees amounting to P2,996,000. Otherwise, the complaint must be dismissed conformably with the Manchester Rule...,” read Arevalo’s motion to dismiss filed during Wednesday’s proceedings.
The DOJ panel, however, said the respondents can raise these matters when they file their counter-affidavits or manifestations.
Rabusa’s counsel Reynaldo Simpao said that they did not have to pay docket fees because the National Prosecution Service’s Schedule of Legal Fees does not require payment from those filing plunder complaints.
“Cases of estafa, theft, robbery and libel - These are the ones that require filing fees. Plunder is not one of those included in the enumaration,” he said. “Just like murder, kidnapping, and violation of the Dangerous Drugs Act, there is no filing fee for plunder,” he added.
In his complaint filed last April, Rabusa detailed corruption in the military involving misappropriation and conversion of millions of public funds.
“Respondents took advantage of their official positions, authority, and influence to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense and to the damage and prejudice of the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines,” he alleged.
He claimed that those he named as respondents were liable for misuse and conversion of some P2.3 billion in military funds from 2000 to 2005.

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