Palace assures no whitewash in 2007 RP-US Balikatan fund mess probe

May 21, 2009 2:41 am 

By Joel C. Atencio

MANILA, May 20 – Malacañang today assured Filipinos that there will be no whitewash in the ongoing investigation of the 2007 RP-US Balikatan fund scam.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said in the Wednesday press briefing that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro to speed up the investigation of the alleged fund mess.

”This is a matter that should be handled thoroughly by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). We hope that nothing will stop the investigators from knowing the truth. We expect everyone involved to cooperate with the investigators especially the officer who has already retired,” Ermita told reporters.

He also said that the case should be handled by the military justice system or the military’s court martial before it could be tried by the civilian courts or the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan.

Reports reaching Malacanang said more than P240 million in unused funds for the 2006 and 2007 RP-US Balikatan exercises that should have been returned to the National Treasury have turned up in a government bank, a Commission on Audit (COA) report showed.

The COA report on the Armed Forces of the Philippines said the funds in question include “the amount of unutilized remittance from the US embassy for the Balikatan exercises which was deposited and held in trust with the Land Bank of the Philippines; and the Special Financial Assistance for CAFGU (Citizens Armed Forces Geographical Units) in Western Mindanao Command (Wesmincom).”

The COA said the unremitted funds amounted to P62.77 million in 2007 and P181.98 million in 2006 or a total of P244.7 million.

The Balikatan expenses broke out following allegations by Navy Lt. Senior Grade Nancy Gadian that more than P46 million of the funds had been misused. Gadian had accused her superiors, particularly Lt. Gen. Eugenio Cedo, of pocketing portions of the fund. Cedo has denied the allegation.

The AFP said in a statement it is in close coordination with COA regarding the unremitted Balikatan funds.

Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner, AFP spokesman, said that concerned military units are examining and checking financial records in light of the COA report.

Gadian, who has been declared AWOL (Absent Without Official Leave), is being urged by her superiors to come out in the open and file formal charges against Cedo. (PNA) LAP/JCA

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