PRRD fires ranking military officials over corruption

MANILA — President Rodrigo R. Duterte has fired at least 20 high-ranking officials and employees of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Health Service Command over alleged corruption at the V. Luna Medical Center in Quezon City, Malacañang said on Monday.

“It was brought to the President’s attention that alleged corruption activities have been taking place at the V. Luna Medical Center,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a Palace briefing.

He said Duterte has since read the reports of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) and AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez.

Based on the report, Roque said corruption activities include anomalous purchases of equipment and fraudulent transaction, such as ghost purchases, splitting of contracts to circumvent the mandatory bidding processes, and conceiving fictitious suppliers.

Citing Galvez, Roque put the estimated number of sacked individuals at 20 but said he only had two names so far.

“I suppose the entire office that has to do with procurement will be relieved,” Roque said, noting that investigation has been concluded.

The two sacked top military brass officials were Brig. Gen. Edwin Leo Torrelavega, commander of the AFPHSC; and Col. Antonio Punzalan, head of the V. Luna Medical Center.

The respective chiefs of the management and fiscal office and the logistics office were also ordered relieved.

More anomalous transactions

Roque said Galvez has already released a memorandum relieving the military officials, which shall be effective upon their receipt. However, there has yet to be word on who will be their replacements.

“I think there will be widespread (removal) and many replacements to be appointed because according to the Chief of Staff, there will be no less than 20 individuals who will be relieved and subject to court martial procedure,” he added.

Roque said the AFP currently has a report involving one ghost transaction involving PHP1.491 million but a larger report involving hundreds of millions of pesos will be released in due course.

“Tomorrow, they (AFP) will be releasing a larger report. The report that they have now only involves ghost transactions, ghost deliveries involving PHP1.491 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.

“This is not an isolated transaction. It involves quite a number of anomalous transactions,” he added. “Apparently it’s a conspiracy. It was institutional corruption in V. Luna.”

Roque was unsure whether medical equipment procured for the hospital were delivered, but noted that there were “definitely overpricing and other kinds of fraud committed.”

Aggravated, ballistic

Roque was mum on the details but explained that a report on the alleged corruption activities at the medical center came in during the last Cabinet meeting held on August 6.

He said Duterte was “very aggravated” in talking about corruption during the Cabinet meeting because there was the issue of both the Nayong Pilipino Foundation and the V. Luna Medical Center.

On Aug. 7, Duterte fired the entire board and management of the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) over the “ridiculous” lease of government property.

Roque said alleged irregularities at the V. Luna Medical Center did not start during the Duterte administration but “has been ongoing for a very long period of time.”

“He’s ballistic because only recently, he ordered that the sum of PHP50 million a month be released to V. Luna to make sure that V. Luna will have sufficient funds to cover all medical requirements of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines only to find out that bulk of the funds or much of the funds may be going to pockets of corrupt officials of the Armed Forces,” the Palace official said.

“He was personally aggravated when the information on corruption was confirmed in V. Luna. Personally aggravated and angered,” Roque added.

Duterte has repeatedly said that he will not think twice about sacking officials involved in even “a whiff” of corruption.