Military authorities said Tuesday civilian suppliers were involved in the allegedly anomalous purchase of military medical supplies which prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to immediately fire 20 top officials of the AFP Medical Center.
Those relieved were accused of involvement in 17 cases of ghost transactions involving supplies, drugs, and equipment at inflated prices.
AFP Chief of Staff Carlito Galvez Jr. told radio dzMM in an interview one of the findings of their investigation was that there were civilian suppliers and they dictated the price of the deals.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said, “We expect that the morale of troops will be affected positively by this.”
He added the relief showed the government was working hard to eliminate corruption in its ranks.
As this developed, President Duterte fired the Comptroller of the Philippine Military Academy for allegedly misusing cadets’ allowance amounting to at least P15 million.
“Send the guy to hell. That’s an order,” Duterte said, adding that Hector Marana faces six to 12 years imprisonment if found guilty for malversation.
Lawmakers on Tuesday hailed Duterte’s move of firing of top officials of the AFP Medical Center over the P1.4 billion in alleged ghost transactions, saying the action of the Chief Executive jibed with the government’s “fearless” anti-corruption campaign.
Reps. Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur, Rodolfo Albano III of Isabela and Winston Castelo of Quezon City said the move of Duterte to order the relief of Brig. Gen. Edwin Leo Torrelavega, commander of the AFP Health Service Command, and Col. Antonio Punzalan, commander at the V. Luna Medical Center showed his political will to get rid of corruption in government.
“It just shows that President Duterte has the political will to get rid of corruption in our government,” Pimentel, chairman of the House committee on good government and public accountability, said.
“If we want to become a developed nation we must first eradicate corruption. Therefore, the President is in the right direction to fight corruption and I fully support him in this drive,” he added.
Albano said what the President did was a “great move.” “[The President] doesn’t joke about corruption,” he added.
Castelo, for his part, said, “We commend the President on his fearless campaign against corruption. This will send a strong signal to scalawags out there.”
Meanwhile, AKO-Bicol Party-List Rep. Alfredo Garbin said the President anti-corruption drive must be intensified.
“It goes to show that he is serious in his corruption drive. But the said advocacy should not stop from there,” Garbin, a deputy minority leader, said. “Someone should get charged and jailed to set a precedent and discourage others from emulating them,” he added.
According to Lorenzana, “The corruption was discovered by internal audit and investigation. The Philippine Anti-Corruption Commission also conducted a parallel inquiry. It was determined that there were ghost deliveries.”
The defense chief also said the incident was unfortunate considering that the DND and the AFP were currently enjoying the trust of the Filipino people.
Despite these developments, Lorenzana assured the public that the DND and AFP were sensitive to irregularities such as these and vow to continue safeguarding our institution against similar incidents in the future.
Galvez said the personnel would be charged with violation of Article of War 95 (Fraud Against the
Government). But this is without prejudice to other infractions of the Articles of War that may have also been violated; and the accused military personnel’s right to due process.
In line with this and based on the findings in the investigation, the AFP chief said he would order that reforms be instituted in the AFPHSC, along with a major revamp in the unit to address the systemic corruption.
“I will cause the installation only of officers and staff with the necessary qualifications, competencies, integrity, and unquestionable reputation, to run this institution which is vital to the health and well-being of our personnel and their dependents,” Galvez added.