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Court martial readied over AFP hospital mess; top cops linked to AK 47 rifle row




PNP ANNIVERSARY. Despite the rain, President Duterte troop the line during the 117th Police Service Anniversary at the Philippine National Police  Headquarters in Camp  Crame, Quezon City. With the President is PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde. The President has brought his campaign against corruption in the PNP, the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine Military Academy where generals and ranking officers were sacked.


MANILA – President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s campaign against corruption in government continues without letup and this time it involves institutions such as the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), the school for future soldiers in all branches of the Armed Forces.


In the AFP, Duterte fired  a general and at least 20 high-ranking officials and employees of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Health Service Command over alleged corruption at the AFP Medical Center popularly known as the V. Luna Medical Center in Quezon City.


AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Carliot Galvez Jr. said those sacked were Brig. Gen. Edwin Leo Torrelavega, the Commander of the AFP Health Services Command, Col. Antonio Punzalan, the Commander of V. Luna Hospital, and around 20 others implicated in alleged corruption activities such as anomalous and ghost projects. They will all face court martial proceedings.


At the PNP, a Chief Superintendent (general) and some ranking officers were ordered dismissed over the anomalous issuance of AK-47 rifle licenses from August 2011 to April 2013 some of which were later found with New People's Army (NPA) rebels.


PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde identified the highest ranking PNP officer dismissed as Chief Superintendent Regino Catiis of the PNP directorate for human resource and doctrine development.


Others dismissed in the PNP were Superintendent Nelson Bautista of Personnel Holding and Accounting Unit, Superintendent Ricky Sumalde of the Criminal Investigation and Detective Ggroup, Chief Inspector Ricardo Zapata Jr. of PNP Region 3 (Central Luzon), Senior Superintendent Eduardo Acierto, SPO1 Randy Madiam De Sesto, and non-uniformed personnel Sol Bargan, all assigned in the Civil Security Group. 


At the PMA, meanwhile, ordered dismissed by Mr. Duterte was Maj. Hector Marana, a PMA comptroller, who has been charged with messing up P15 million supposedly for allowances of the PMA cadets.


Duterte announced and signed the dismissal order of Marana in the middle of his speech before businessmen at the launching of the “Pilipinas Angat Lahat” program in Malacañang.


The President also approved the recommendation of the military court to sentence Maraña to a prison term of six to 12 years. Marana was also charged with fraud, conduct unbecoming of an officer, and conduct prejudicial to good order.


Last week, Duterte fired all board members of Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) over a “grossly disadvantageous” 70-year property lease contract of its Paranaque City reclaimed property to a Hong Kong-based company which will put up a resort and casino there.


Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said corruption activities at the AFP Medical Center included anomalous purchases of equipment and fraudulent transaction, such as ghost purchases, splitting of contracts to circumvent the mandatory bidding processes, and conceiving fictitious suppliers. 


Roque said the AFP  has a report involving one ghost transaction involving P1.491 million but a larger report involving hundreds of millions of pesos will be released in due time.


“Tomorrow, they (AFP) will be releasing a larger report. The report that they have now only involves ghost transactions, ghost deliveries involving P1.491 million but there are (a) series of transactions involving almost hundreds of millions of pesos. So they will be releasing subsequent reports in due course,” Roque said.


"The AFP welcomes the pronouncement relieving from his post Brig. Gen. Edwin Leo Torrelavega, the Commander of the AFP Health Services Command, and Col. Antonio Punzalan, the Commander of V. Luna Hospital, and around 20 others to face court martial proceedings," AFP chief-of-staff Gen. Galvez Jr. said.


The relief of these Gen. Torrelavega and other officials stemmed from the outcome of two different but parallel investigations ordered by the AFP chief of staff.


"The task to thoroughly collect material and relevant information regarding the case started sometime in the month of May 2018. The results of which I transmitted to Malacañang by way of a letter to the President sometime this month (August)," the AFP chief added.


The case against the AFP officers and men will be tried under the military justice system and the accused will face court martial proceedings where they will be given the opportunity to be heard, Galvez said, adding that they are charged with violation of Article of War 95 (Fraud against the Government).


Galvez said 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.


"As the AFP chief-of-staff and like our Commander-in Chief, President Rodrigo Duterte, I am both saddened and offended by this report. I am not prejudging the named Officers and Enlisted Personnel as the would-be recommendations of the courts martial will be submitted to me for approval and further submission to the Commander-in-Chief for final approval," he added.


"But I commit to the members of the AFP, to the Filipino People, and to our beloved President and Commander-in-Chief that I will render justice to all concerned without undue haste. As the President said during the last SONA (State-of-the-Nation Address) corruption is corrosive. And the warning that— 'I will get you!' And I am one with him in that desire. At ito na yun," Galvez said.


In line with this and based on the investigation, the AFP chief said that he will order that reforms be instituted in the AFPHSC along with a major revamp in the unit to address the supposed systemic corruption there.


"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


In Camp Crame in Quezon City, PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde said that Chief Supt. Catiis and the others dismissed will also suffer the penalty of forfeiture of retirement benefits, cancellation of eligibility, and disqualification from public office. 


The Ombudsman earlier ordered the police officers' dismissal.


Retired Chief Supt. Raul Delfin Petrasanta who previously headed the PNP Firearms and Explosives Office was also ordered dismissed. Petrasanta opted for early retirement last June 2017.


Meanwhile, retired Chief Supt. Allan Parreño had his compulsory retirement last December 2015.


SPO1 Eric Domasig Tan of PHAU was also included in the dismissal case but was already axed from the service in February 2018. He was also meted a fine equivalent to one year’s salary.


NUP Nora Pirote, who was also ordered dismissed, availed of optional retirement. Pirote was told to pay a fine equivalent to a one-year pay. 


Ombudsman records showed that firearms licenses were issued to Isidro Lozada after he facilitated the procurement of 1,400 units of AK-47s.
The Ombudsman said the requirements for license applications were incomplete and the guns were later found in the possession of CPP-NPA rebels

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