POSTSCRIPT / February 1, 2011 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Can AFP officers corps still clean the service?

PAKIMKIM: Finally, the big military racket that was only talked about but never documented has been blown wide open.

No evidence tight enough for conviction has been presented, but the town is now talking, and believing, the story that the chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines traditionally receives millions as pasalubong (welcome) upon his assumption of office and as pabaon(sendoff) upon his retirement.

Paling in comparison is what we conveniently call here as pakimkim, the less-than-a-million amounts passed on to the officers or their wives as gifts, shopping money, goodwill, and such.

Retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa, a former AFP budget officer, has disclosed the sordid details before the Senate. Being awaited is his submission of documentary evidence of the massive corruption that has been sapping the vitality of the military for decades.

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ALL TAINTED: It may not be fair to say this, but the way Rabusa and other insiders tell it in the wake of the attempt to whitewash plunder charges through a plea bargain of retired Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia, the entire military top brass is tainted.

With that, the capacity of the military high command to lick its stinking sores and heal itself is put in serious doubt.

One is hardly comforted by the statement of the AFP spokesman, Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr., that Rabusa’s revelations would prod the AFP to “intensify its drive against corruption.”

We hope this reform move includes a return to the ideals of not just courage and loyalty but also of integrity enshrined in the motto of the Philippine Military Academy that molded these generals.

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MASS RETURN: A pledge to reform the officers corps may ring true if the top brass, past and present, mass before the flag at the Camp Aguinaldo parade ground and, then and there, surrender the millions filched from military coffers, some of it intended for supplies and allowances of soldiers in the field.

The penitential mass formation could be led by former AFP chiefs Angelo Reyes, Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu in gala uniform.

Rabusa told the Senate that Reyes received P50 million as pabaon when he retired in 2001. This was allegedly on top of a monthly P5 million “personal fund.” He added that top AFP officials are drawing P40 million monthly from the budget of the Army, Air Force, and Navy.

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MAN-TO-MAN: To cut the laborious process, President Aquino the Commander-in-Chief can summon to Malacanang all the colonels and generals in the service to get the facts straight from each one and then deliver clearly and forcefully his order to come clean.

He can start with his incumbent AFP chief of staff. After he is satisfied with the general’s (presumably honest) responses, the President calls in the rest one at a time and ask the same direct questions about their supposed dipping into “conversion” and other AFP funds.

That non-stop man-to-man talk might take the whole day and the whole night. It will not recover immediately a single dirty peso from any one of them, but it might impress on all the gentlemen that the Chief means business.

(Just between you and me, such drama will not clean up the corruption in the officers corps. I invite readers to email me their cleanup suggestion in not more than 70 words and let us see what will come out of the brainstorm.)

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COIINCIDENCE: Have you noticed these coincidences while Rabusa, who served under General Garcia and admitted pocketing military funds himself, exploded his bombs in the Senate:

* Garcia’s alleged plunder and his questioned plea bargain with the Sandiganbayan appear to have been forgotten, or at least sidelined.

* Suddenly there are explosions in the national capital and elsewhere, claiming innocent lives and momentarily grabbing the headlines.

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GOOD NEWS: Like radio stations required to use a certain percentage of air time for Filipino music, we are advised to insert prominently what they call the “good news.”

In line with that idea, we are reporting here the good news that in ensuring continuous water supply to eastern Metro Manila and several towns of Rizal, Manila Water said it achieved in 2010 a 100-percent supply of clean and potable water for its customers in that sector.

Despite the reported critical level of the water level at Angat dam in Bulacan, its source, Manila Water said it has maintained a 99-percent level of water reliability.

The Ayala-owned company reported it has brought down what used to be a daunting “non-revenue water” level of 63 percent in 1997 to an all-time low of 11 percent by the end of 2010. This is the biggest reduction of water system loss in Philippine history.

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WATER QUALITY: Through its sustained system loss reduction program, the high efficiency has also enabled Manila Water to provide service to more communities even in such far places as Taguig, San Mateo, Cainta, Angono, Baras, Rodriguez, and Taytay.

Jeric Sevilla, head of the firm’s corporate communications, said the round-the-clock coverage is complemented by a 100-percent batting average in terms of water quality.

He said: “All samples collected from our treatment facilities, service reservoirs, and customers’ taps are 100-percent compliant with the values set by the Philippine National Standards for Drinking Water for bacteriological quality and physical/chemical quality.”

“The company’s water recovery programs have addressed the needed water demand for the mountain areas of San Mateo, Montalban, and Antipolo.”

These programs included technical and social interventions that involved pipe-laying, meter replacement, and curbing illegal connections via the company’s flagship program Tubig Para Sa Barangay or Water for the Community.

Seviila reported that 1.6 million people or about 274,962 households belonging to low-income communities have been served by Manila Water.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 1, 2011)

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