Reinventing the AFP comptroller
In December 2003, US Customs at the San Francisco International Airport discovered undeclared currency amounting to $100,000 being smuggled into the United States by two sons of the AFP comptroller, Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia. The incident triggered events that eventually led to the court mJaartial, conviction, and imprisonment of General Garcia. Recently, the Sandiganbayan ruled that retired Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot, a former military comptroller, unlawfully acquired over P102 million worth of properties that have now been forfeited in favor of the government. Earlier, the Sandiganbayan convicted Ligot of perjury and sentenced him to six years in prison.
These two cases highlight the power and influence of the AFP comptroller in those days in the disbursement of military funds, a situation that was exacerbated by the frequent change of AFP leadership, resulting in a lack of control and supervision over financial transactions and disbursements.
In 2004 when Gen. Efren Abu was installed as AFP chief of staff, his first action was to abolish the Office of the AFP Comptroller (J-6). The office was broken up into four separate entities: fiscal management, resource management, accounting services, and internal audit. For almost 16 years, this set-up continued with J-6 assuming other functions.
Last December, by virtue of a directive from Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, the AFP added another J staff to the present complement at GHQ in Camp Aguinaldo. J-10 was created as the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Financial Management. For the information of our civilian friends, the J Staff of the AFP consists of the following: J-1 Personnel, J-2 Intelligence, J-3 Operations, J-4 Logistics, J-5 Plans and Programs, J-6 Communications and Electronic Systems, J-7 Civil Military Operations, J-8 Training and Education, J-9 Reservist Affairs, and the latest J-10. In some ways, the new addition was basically the old Office of the AFP Comptroller, but with different features aimed at preventing the anomalies that occurred 16 years ago.
One could say that it is a case of “an old dog wearing a new collar.” But that may not be quite accurate. In the old set-up, fiscal management, budgeting, accounting, and internal audit functions were all lumped under one office resulting in a situation that eliminated the checks and balances that were needed to maintain the integrity of financial transactions. The accounting and internal audit work have now been separated from the new office that was created and the discretion to make fund releases by the comptroller has been abolished. There has long been a need to professionalize financial management services and provide some ethical standards in the system, and in line with this objective, an AFP Eligibility List is being considered for officials who will be tapped for financial management work to ensure not just competence but also integrity in office.
It is fortunate that the AFP has chosen as the first head of the new office an officer of well-known competence, invaluable experience in the field of financial management, and has a high degree of honesty. Maj. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. comes from a distinguished family of warriors, warriors for peace, and warriors for justice. His father was the highly respected Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals Romeo Brawner, a former Comelec commissioner. Four of his uncles, including Felix Brawner Jr., Libby, Franklin, and Percival Brawner, all graduated from the Philippine Military Academy and served in the military. He has two first cousins who sacrificed their lives in the service of country — Lt. Felix Brawner III, and Capt. Winston Brawner Baguilat. The Brawners are descended from one of the “Buffalo Soldiers” (African-American enlisted men in the US Army) who came to the Philippines as part of the American invasion force during the Philippine American War (1899-1902). Private Lisbon Brawner, US Army, fell in love with a Filipino girl from Pangasinan, went AWOL to court and marry her, left the service, and never returned to the United States.
Maj. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. is a member of PMA Class 1989, graduating No. 2 in his batch, and serving as First Captain of the Cadet Corps in his senior year. He finished at the top of his class in the AFP Comptroller Course, holds an MBA from the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, and a Masters in Information Management from the Ateneo de Manila University. During the Marawi siege in 2017, he was often the face of the AFP on television, reporting the progress being made in the conflict.
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