Sunday, January 30, 2005

Hoping for justice

Hoping for justice

Posted 00:15am (Mla time) Jan 30, 2005
By Isagani Cruz
Inquirer News Service

Editor's Note: Published on page A12 of the January 30, 2005 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

GEN. Carlos Garcia, who shocked the nation with his P143 million fortune despite his monthly salary of only P35,000 is now facing charges before the court martial for conduct unbecoming and, in the civil courts, for unexplained wealth, perjury, and other related crimes. His subordinates in the AFP comptroller office are also being investigated for similar incredible affluence amounting likewise to millions of pesos they presumably could not have acquired legitimately.

Among them is retired Gen. Jacinto Ligot who must explain the provenance of certain valuable properties in his name, including massive bank accounts and expensive cars not compatible with his lawful income while serving as AFP comptroller during the term of Gen. Angelo Reyes as chief of staff. Especially noteworthy are the frequent trips abroad of Mrs. Ligot, often in the company of Mrs. Reyes, to various cities in the United States, Europe and Asia at not inconsiderable expenses. In addition to the cost of such travels, the general has to prove how he lawfully acquired several valuable properties here and two houses in California worth millions of dollars.

Another officer whose unseemly wealth has raised eyebrows is Lt. Col. George A. Rabusa, who is now facing criminal prosecution and must show how he became a multimillionaire on his modest salary in the AFP. The extent of his enormous fortune was detailed recently by Jarius Bondoc in his column appropriately titled "Gotcha" to include bank accounts, real estate, cars and other investments totaling as much as P34 million. His wife, who is also a frequent traveler abroad, usually with Mrs. Reyes, also owns several valuable properties and bank accounts, either with her husband or their two daughters, amounting to P10 million.

Revelation of the numerous travels abroad of Mrs. Reyes, often with Mrs. Ligot or Mrs. Rabusa, has fueled suspicions also of the Reyeses. The fact that Mesdames Ligot and Rabusa's respective spouses were under General Reyes when he was AFP chief of staff has deepened this mistrust, particularly since Reyes' record is none-too-immaculate either. While secretary of national defense, he was questioned about his P10 million mansion in Fort Bonifacio that he could not have afforded with his limited income as a Cabinet member. He resigned as such and the probe was discontinued as if his leaving the public service operated as his exoneration.

He was soon back as anti-kidnapping czar and is now secretary of the interior and local governments, but the former charge against him has not been revived. He says that the high-priced building has been partly funded by his mother, who must be opulent in her own right. But there are still the travels of his wife, sometimes with him and often with the wives of his subordinates in the AFP, that call for closer examination, considering their frequency and possible public expense. No wonder that the Commission on Appointments has not been too ready to confirm his nomination by the apparently trustful President Macapagal-Arroyo.

The wives of the aforementioned generals also have a lot to explain about the number of their foreign travels and the cost of such peregrinations, in view of the supposedly humble earnings of their respective husbands. Mrs. Reyes says she traveled abroad 50 times during the past 12 years and some of the trips with her husband were official, charged to our government or the host country. (Did she go as the general's aide de camp?) Mrs. Ligot, who traveled 25 times from 1996 to 2004, was her usual companion. Mrs. Rabusa, who accompanied Mrs. Reyes once to Singapore, toured Europe, America, Asia and Australia 18 times for the past nine years at the estimated airline expense alone of P1 million. On top of all these, Mrs. Ligot and Mrs. Rabusa are co-owners with their husbands of questionable investments and property acquisitions that are disproportionate to their families' lawful income.

Another general whose investigation for financial irregularities has been resurrected is former AFP chief Lisandro Abadia, who claims persecution after the original charge against him has, he says, already been dismissed. They are looking at him again on the suspicion of another cover-up by the AFP that has now lost the former respect of the people as the defender and moral exemplar of the nation.

And while we're opening this can of worms, what about the abuses committed under martial law? The Freedom Constitution called for the eradication "of all iniquitous vestiges of the previous regime," but they are still here to mock and accuse us. Of the many cases filed against Imelda Marcos, only one has resulted in her conviction, which was affirmed by the Third Division of the Supreme Court but contritely reversed by the Court en banc. Even the P23.5 billion tax deficiency adjudged against her remains unenforced while she lives ostentatiously in luxury while claiming penury.

We will observe the 19th anniversary of Edsa I next month but we might as well be back to the Marcos depredations. We will remain captive to that wicked past unless the government finally renders justice after its long-induced and long-unawakened slumber. Let it not be said of us that, as Benjamin Franklin warns, "He that lives upon hope will die fasting."


Post a Comment

<< Home