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'A victory for impunity': Activists decry Ombudsman's dismissal of plunder raps vs ex-generals
The online news portal of TV5

Activists on Saturday decried the Ombudsman's dismissal of charges against several former generals accused of plunder, calling the development "a victory for impunity".

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said: "This is a major setback in efforts to hold corrupt AFP officials accountable. This is a victory for impunity."

Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. in a statement added: "The Department of Justice already had findings of plunder, so how can the Ombudsman completely ignore those findings and say that there is no evidence? What do they call the boxes of documents Rabusa submitted? What do they call the admissions made in the Senate hearing? What do they call the properties attributed to the accused?"

A military whistleblower, former Col. George Rabusa, told the Senate that generals and other officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines received hundreds of millions of pesos in questionable gifts and allowances upon their appointments and retirements. Rabusa's exposé led to high-profile Senate hearings that eventually led the the suicide of former AFP chief of staff Angelo Reyes.

A six-member Ombudsman panel said it did not find enough evidence to support Rabusa's allegation that retired generals inappropriately received millions of pesos as "pasalubong" and "pabaon" when they were promoted and retired. Effectively cleared were generals Diomedio Villanueva, Roy Cimatu and Efren Abu.

The memorandum dismissing the charges of plunder was approved by the Ombudsman last July 2012 but released only on April 4. The memorandum also effectively cleared: Maj. Gen. Hilario Atendido, Maj. Gen. Jacinto Ligot, Maj. Gen. Epineto Logico, and Lt. Gen. Gaudencio Pangilinan. Other officers benefitting from the development: Capt. Kenneth Paglinauan, Major Emerson Angulo, Col. Gilbert Gapay, Maj. Gen. Ernesto Boac, Col. Robert Arevalo, Brig. Gen. Benito de Leon, Col. Cirilo Tomas Donato, Col. Roy Devesa, and Lt. Col. Ernesto Paranis.

"The dismissal again raises questions about the seriousness of the Aquino administration in fighting graft," Reyes said. "There was a lot of media attention when Rabusa came out and accused the AFP top brass of the “pabaon” and “pasalubong” system. What has the Aquino regime done since to help strengthen the case against these generals? Why does it seem that Rabusa is fighting without help from the administration? Is it because Aquino is no longer interested in pursuing the case?"

"Millions of pesos were changing hands but still that doesn’t constitute evidence? The Ombudsman seems to find nothing odd with hundreds of millions of pesos finding its way to the generals, even saying that there is no proof that the money came from public funds! It’s just outrageous," he added.

In one of the Ombudsman's findings, some P160 million was supposedly deposited and withdrawn from Rabusa’s bank account, to be given as "pabaon" for outgoing AFP Chief of Staff Diomedio Villanueva. And yet, Reyes said, "despite the enormity of the amount, the Ombudsman still could not determine whether the money was private or public funds or if there existed any irregularity."

“It’s as if officers of the AFP have the power to conjure millions of peso and pass them off as private funds,” he said.

The current Ombudsman, Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, is an appointee of President Aquino. She was appointed following the resignation of then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez amidst an impeachment case that was filed against her.

"How ironic that Aquino wanted Ombudsman Gutierrez removed for failing to go after the corrupt, only to replace her with an Ombudsman with the same problem," Reyes said. "Mr. Aquino said his administration will appeal the Sandiganbayan ruling on the Garcia plea bargain. We wonder if he will also pursue the Rabusa complaint to its just and logical conclusion. It seems the 'daang matuwid' remains empty rhetoric. Whistleblowers like Jun Lozada and George Rabusa are not finding any support from this regime."