What do you think are the specific measures that can be imposed to cut down on conversion and other forms of military corruption?
One of the measures would be the abolition of the comptrollership. The office should be scaled down.
Because I remember, when I graduated from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in 1961, I reported to the comptroller, which was then only a section of the G4 or logistics.
But during the time of Gen. Fabian Ver as AFP chief of staff, they made the comptroller co-level with the other staff officers. There is a saying that “He who has the gold controls the world.”
So others saw that there’s gold in the comptrollership. Because the comptroller can just give you whatever he wants to give you. You need 100 pesos, he can give you just five.
The comptroller became powerful.
So was former Navy Capt. Dan Vizmanos correct when he said that military corruption became massive during Martial Law?
Martial law? I don’t know if it was massive, but of course during Martial Law, everything was under control. Everything.
That brought about the existence of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM). One of its issues was corruption.
Because at that time only General Ver and his minions were controlling the Armed Forces. At that time you couldn’t tell what was going to happen with your military career. Retireable officers’ terms were being extended for as long as 10 years, 15 years, that was what was happening.
Rene joined the 1989 coup attempt with the intention of pushing for reforms in the military. If you’re willing to answer this, on which side were you when it broke out?
I was on the government side. I was a division commander. My view then was that I would no longer join such attempts. EDSA was over and there would be chaos again.
How did you feel that there was this coup attempt in 1989 and you were on the government side and your son was on the other side?
I didn’t really feel critical about it because the Visayas where I was assigned is very far from Manila and the only action was in Manila. It was so far from our division.
If the coup plotters had won – there is a saying, “To the victors belongs justice.” If they had won, what do I do except to keep quiet about it? They want me relieved from the division, let them relieve me. They want me charged, I’d ask for what offense.
But I was thinking, maybe they’d take pity on me because I didn’t fight them, I was in the Visayas and they were in Manila. My troops didn’t move.
After 1989, Rene’s efforts to promote military reform were through writing, and he was subjected to various forms of harassment.
Yes, the senior commanders got angry. Maybe they were included in the articles.
Every so often there are people like Rene who exert efforts to promote reforms in the military – by whatever means, by any of the two means that he chose to take. What, in your observation, have they achieved in terms of fighting corruption in the military?
According to the news releases of the AFP, some progress has been made in that area. I read in the newspapers that the finance people are now being made to report directly to the chief of staff. I don’t know if there is now a stronger audit control.
What do you think should be done so that there could be far-reaching and long-lasting reforms in the AFP?
You have to revise old policies. There should be legislation so that corrupt officials know that their practices are punishable by law.
One of the things I remember Rene saying is that nothing short of revolutionary could reform the AFP. Would you agree with him on that?
It depends on how “revolutionary” is defined. He must have been thinking of something that is really radical, so the means could be peaceful but the solution is radical. In one of his latest articles he was talking of the constitutional soldier. The soldier must protect and defend the Constitution. (Bulatlat.com)