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On The Move

Notoriously undesirable

I feel terribly insulted by the joint statement released by Secretary Gregorio Honasan and Undersecretary Eliseo Rio Jr. saying they have “settled their differences” about the alleged anomaly in the disbursement of confidential funds of the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) that they now say was not an anomaly at all but was “legal and legitimate.”

While the term anomaly was not mentioned, the text of Rio’s social media sharing had anomaly clearly and thickly written all over it. His avoidance to use the word anomaly, corruption, and graft all the more signaled to a reading public, wise to the ways in which the public coffers are plundered in this country, that his effort to whistleblow “softly” actually charges corruption.

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After making the allegations that the confidential funds of the newly minted DICT were withdrawn under unusual circumstances by Honasan as cash advances of P100 million each and liquidated over just two months, Honasan and Rio now make it appear this anomaly will go away as a matter of a personal gentleman’s agreement between the two of them, simply by their say-so as announced to the public. No way! The Commission on Audit already flagged this as an anomalous transaction. It should now be investigated by the Senate and the Ombudsman. The Filipino public is again being taken for a ride.

These two gentlemen should be ashamed of themselves. Both ex-military officers, given the opportunity and honor to continue serving this country, have now dishonored themselves by attempting to sweep under the rug a stinking and blatant attempt to privatize public resources. Not that Honasan has already washed his hands clean of his involvement in the Napoles pork barrel scam, as well as his earlier repeated efforts to force the People’s Revolutionary Government of Cory Aquino to its knees in 1989. Honasan has gone way beyond strike three. When one contemplates the Gringos, Imeldas and Johnnys still in our midst, we wonder, why are notorious public personalities so rechargeable, and why are heroic ones so short-lived and disposable?

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This rigmarole in the DICT is sad, because the nature of the possible corrupt act — the use of government funds for intelligence purposes — is now understood as the mainstream corruption opportunity in government service, due to exemptions from transparency and accountability mechanisms. It is sadder that the increase in intelligence fund allocations is a technique inspired by no less than the Office of the President. It is saddest because the budgets of departments that are in charge of critical social services, including disaster risk reduction and management and health services, have been drastically reduced to release funds for privatization via intelligence justifications.

I worry about the Philippine military. It is as if the lack of opportunity to develop and display courage in the face of the enemy has goaded more of its members to develop another kind of courage — the courage to take risks in plundering the nation. Silly how some of us ordinary mortals get frantic when we get flagged down by a traffic enforcer while some extraordinary mortals abscond with hundreds of millions of pesos and they do not even bat an eyelash. And they do it over and over again.

I also worry about the military officers and men because there seems to have developed a disturbing sense of entitlement. That they are trained to lay their lives down for the country seems to have given them the sense that it is up to them to collect the commensurate benefits for it. And this feeling is shared with their families. Soldiers die in battle or in encounters with the enemy but their families look at their deaths as lost investments. They try to collect from the nation “damages,” the more the benefits they are able to extract, the better. How have we come to this? How can we stand up to foreign aggressors this way?

I also worry about the way President Duterte has let the military into power by the backdoor. He has created the expectation among retired military officers that they will be given plum civilian government offices. This opening to greener civilian bureaucracy pastures ironically happens as the military is unable to develop and sustain strategic thinking within its ranks. “Cathedral thinking” in the military is impossible given the short stints of the chiefs of staff of the military. Neither is the military oriented toward training and doctrines development. The individualistic “careerism” focus is on tactical operations out in the field, running after the New People’s Army, as these are the situations that engender tactical performance worth military medals.

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TAGS: DICT intel funds, Eliseo Rio Jr., Gregorio Honasan II, Gringo Honasan, On The Move, Segundo Eclar Romero
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