Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No 'baon' for Oban

Bowing out as Armed Forces of the Philippines chief yesterday, Gen. Eduardo Oban Jr. cited the gains against military corruption and claimed that there are no more thieves in the AFP.
“I can proudly say to our countrymen that there are no thieves in our Armed Forces,” Oban said in Filipino during the change of command rites in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City.

Oban, who turned over the command of the AFP to his classmate Lt. Gen. Jessie Dellosa, said he would be leaving the service without receiving sendoff money or “pabaon.”

“I can proudly say that I did not change. Sa posisyon ng chief of staff, pumasok ako na Oban at lalabas pa rin na Oban. Walang baon. (I assumed the chief of staff post as Oban and I will relinquish it as Oban. No sendoff money),” he said, the pun on his name drawing laughter from the audience.

Dellosa and Oban are graduates of Philippine Military Academy (PMA) class ’79.

Oban said the military is continuously undertaking the reforms he introduced.

“As I step down today I can proudly say that we have succeeded in re-strengthening unto ourselves the value of honesty and integrity, the basic ingredients that make us proud members of the AFP,” he said.

Oban said the military’s procurement system became more transparent under his watch.

“We have strengthened the capabilities of our Inspector-General, our internal auditors and our Provost Marshall if only to send the message that we mean business, in the business of reforms,” he said.

Oban said 99 percent of the personnel vacancies in the military have been filled. This was higher than the 96 percent personnel-hiring rate when Oban assumed his post as AFP chief last March.

“With the observation that personnel vacancies can be corrupted through the so-called ghost soldiers, we have intensified selective recruitment,” he said.

“Mr. President, I can assure you there are no ghosts among your soldiers,” he said, addressing President Aquino who attended the turnover rites.

The AFP’s image had been tainted with corruption after former military budget officer George Rabusa claimed that ranking generals received huge amounts upon retirement. He said the giving of huge cash gifts or “pabaon” to top officials is part of a tradition in the AFP.                                 

At the height of the controversy, polling firm Pulse Asia released a survey which showed that almost half of Filipinos or 48.9 percent view the military as an institution where corruption is most prevalent.                      

The findings were based on the results of a nationwide non-commissioned survey conducted from Feb. 24 to March 6.                       

 Oban assumed as AFP chief last March amid the uproar over the supposed irregularities in the military’s financial system. During his assumption, Oban vowed to ensure the timely release of military funds and to discourage the practice of conversion. He also vowed to conduct unannounced audits and to run after those involved in anomalous transactions.

Oban looks forward to retirement

The military held a simple retirement ceremony for Oban, without the display of military assets as was customary.

A battalion of soldiers, about 400 military personnel, rendered the arrival honors for President Aquino who presided over the ceremony. A division of soldiers, or about 1,000 military personnel comprised the parade.

During the ceremony, Oban chose not to ride a military vehicle when he inspected the troops for the last time. He instead marched with AFP deputy chief of staff Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara.                                    

The troop inspection usually lasts for seven to eight minutes when the retiring officer uses the military vehicle. Oban’s troop inspection lasted for more than 12 minutes. Oban caught the interest of the crowd after delivering lines that expressed his affection towards the troops.                                                          

 “I only want to be with you (troops) twice – now and forever. I will not miss as you go dahil nakaukit kayo sa aking puso (because you are etched in my heart),” he said, drawing cheers from the crowd.                         

Oban also thanked his wife Concepcion and his only son Tobit, promising to spend more time with them after his retirement.                  

“After I sign my relinquishment orders, I am all yours. Gusto ko gawin yung di natin nagawa nang ako ay chief of staff – ang mag-Jollibee. (I want to do what we were not able to do when I was chief of staff – to eat at Jollibee),” he said.                          

Oban also thanked God for giving him the opportunity to lead the AFP and President Aquino for believing in his capabilities.      

 He also thanked Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin for the confidence he instilled in him “by just being there.”                    

 Oban expressed confidence that the military would prosper under Dellosa’s watch.        

“I share the faith of the entire armed forces in your (Dellosa) capability to lead it to even greater heights of success,” he said.

Oban was the fifth Air Force general who served as AFP chief. Others from the Air Force who held the post were Pelagio Cruz (Dec 31, 1961 to Aug. 31, 1962), Victor Osias (Jan. 21, 1967 to Aug. 15, 1967), Arnulfo Acedera Jr. (Nov. 28. 1996 to Dec. 31, 1997), and Benjamin Defensor Jr. (Sept. 10, 2002 to Nov. 28, 2002).                                     

 Prior to his designation as chief of staff, Oban served as deputy chief of staff, the third highest position in the AFP.          

Other positions he held were deputy chief of staff for plans, Air Force assistant chief for operations, commander of the Air Defense Wing and the 1st Air Division, and Air Force Vice Commander.                                     

He also served as Squadron Commander at the 5th Fighter Wing, Group Commander of the Tactical Operations Group 12, and Director for Operations of the 5th Fighter Wing. (Philstar News Service,

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