Air Force Captain Joenel Pogoy, 35, was preparing for his thesis for a squadron officer’s course in Mactan Air Base in Lapu Lapu, Cebu, when his video about corruption inside the Philippine Air Force (PAF) was uploaded in You Tube without his permission. This cost him his career, freedom, and almost, his life.
By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – It is a surprise to see men in uniform, officers at that, almost trembling and asking for guarantees for their safety and that of their families before testifying about the corruption in the Armed Forces during the Senate investigation into the plea bargain agreement entered into by the Office of the Ombudsman with former AFP comptroller Carlos Garcia. It’s as if they were testifying against the bosses of the dreaded Mafia. And they earned praises for it. But those who did similar deeds before them did not get the same privileges and praise. Others paid for it with their careers or worse, their lives. For former Air Force Captain Joenel S. Pogoy, exposing corruption in the AFP sent him to prison and almost cost him his life.
Pogoy, 35, was preparing for his thesis for a squadron officer’s course in Mactan Air Base in Lapu Lapu, Cebu, when his video about corruption inside the Philippine Air Force (PAF) was uploaded in You Tube without his permission.
In the video, Pogoy exposed irregularities in how the budget was spent in the PAF. “If there are four aircrafts in the PAF, only two are running as indicated in the yearly allocated flying time while the other two are being cannibalized by the PAF,” Pogoy said in the video. Cannibalization, Pogoy explained, is the process by which spare parts of an aircraft are replaced by old ones. To cover this up, PAF had procurement papers as proof that the spare parts are all brand new.
In October 2008, Pogoy was detained inside the Villamor Airbase in Taguig City for allegedly violating Articles of War 64, (behaving with disrespect toward his superior officer), 96 (conduct unbecoming of an officer and gentleman), and 97 (conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline).
Pogoy said there was no legal basis for his detention. “My lawyer, Atty. Rey Cortez filed a motion for my release because the charges were administrative but the court-martial did not grant the release because they insisted that my case was criminal in nature.”
Pogoy’s wife sought the help of Karapatan, which, in turn, provided Cortez to be his counsel.
“If they only filed an administrative case against me and not a criminal case, how come they detained me for two years? Is this not a violation of my basic human rights?” Pogoy said.
Under Republic Act 7055 or Civilian Supremacy Law, only service-connected cases defined as military offenses under the Articles of War shall be tried by court-martial.
RA 7055 also indicates that if the offense committed is not service-connected such as those punishable under the Revised Penal Code, unit commanders are supposed to refer the cases to the proper civil courts. But this did not happen to Pogoy.
Pogoy eventually filed his resignation from the service on Dec. 1, 2009. The court martial should have released him by then but he was detained until Oct. 18, 2010.
“The court-martial insisted that my case was criminal. And yet when they were obliged to release me, the Philippine Air Force admitted that I resigned from the service since Dec. 1, 2009. What’s the truth? ” Pogoy told Bulatlat.com.
Pogoy was detained for two years.
While in detention, in June 2009, Pogoy got sick. He thought that he was going to die. He asked to see his wife and kids. He had been bedridden for two weeks and had vomited blood.
Before that, Pogoy was fed only small pieces of bread. So he was so hungry that when his military custodians gave him meat, lechon kawali, he devoured it, but he gave half of it to a dog, which lived in the prison compound. After a few days, Pogoy related, the dog could no longer stand even to pee and was emaciated. The dog was taken away. After a day, he felt sick. He was bedridden, was running a fever, and had a terrible headache. Within five days, he vomited blood and had rashes all over. It was a week before he was brought to the hospital inside Villamor Air Base and not after he sought an audience with the communing general. The military doctor who saw him insisted that he be confined in the base hospital because he might die anytime. According to Pogoy, he was told that his platelet count was dangerously low. He was confined for a week.
He said the PAF would not give him his medical records. “I asked for my medical records but they won’t give it to me up to now. Why? Are they hiding something from me? Maybe they did something to me that caused my sudden illness.”
Pogoy said his wife was also not spared from the sufferings they made him undergo. One time, when his wife visited him, the soldiers let her sleep on the grass in front of his cell. Pogoy uploaded the video on You Tube. “What they did to my wife is a disrespect to women and a violation of her rights. Is that an act of a decent officer?” Pogoy said. He belied the claim of Col. Joselito Diosay who made a public statement saying that Pogoy was treated well while in detention.
Pogoy said his cousin’s house in Caybiga, Caloocan City was raided without a search warrant by PAF forces while he was in detention. He said the PAF also confiscated his laptop and some personal belongings. “They wanted to delete the videos that I uploaded in You Tube. But why do they have to harass my relatives?” He said his cousin, Wilibeth Verdejo was so nervous when the soldiers raided their house.
Still Hoping for Reforms
Pogoy said he entered the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) for the plain reason that he wanted to earn for his family. His parents were farmers in Agusan Del Norte; he is second in a brood of five. He was already 23 years old when he entered the academy. “I just thought of becoming a soldier just to have money. Because in the PMA you’re a scholar and at the same time you also receive a salary.” But while finishing his studies at the academy, he realized that he could do something to help the country.
But his idealism was shattered when he started his service. “If the military could not follow basic laws, what would they obey? Respect for human rights? They would not do that. That is why there are victims of extra-judicial killings and other human rights abuses,” Pogoy said.
The problem, he said, is the military’s mentality. “The thinking in the military is that if you’re an official, you are the law especially when you have a high rank. That is why soldiers who are assigned to go after rebels do not have second thoughts about arresting or killing anyone on the mere suspicion that he or she is a member or sympathizer of the New People’s Party (NPA). No more due process,” he told Bulatlat.
He pointed out that there are people who join the NPA or the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) because they see that there is no hope for change in the government.
When asked if he still believe in the institution he worked for for nine years, Pogoy replied, “Yes. The only problem are the abuses being committed by officers of the military, because that is where the troubles start.”
He said the country needs the Armed Forces to take care of its security. “As a state security force, it should respect what is written in the constitution. It should respect the law, respect the dignity of the Filipino people and respect human rights. But all of these are being violated with impunity by officers of the Armed Forces.”
Pogoy said the government should also address the problems within the military. But instead of prosecuting those who were involved in corruption, those who exposed it are the ones being prosecuted and convicted.
Pogoy used to be a dedicated young officer committed to serving and the Philippine Constitution. As an officer, he believed then that he could help in ensuring the peace and security of the country.
But now, he said, he hopes that his experience in being part of the Armed Forces could serve as an eye opener that the problem is “not coming from those who rebel against the government but from the government itself.”
Up to now, Pogoy still has not received the financial claims and benefits that are due to him. He said that life has been difficult for him after detention. He now sells vegetables in Caloocan to earn a living.
“We are now working on filing a case in court to compel the PAF to give me my financial claims and benefits and at the same time, give my personal records that the PAF confiscated.” He said that up to now, even his transcript of records has not yet been returned to him by the PAF. “How could I apply for a job as pilot?”
From the time of his detention up to the interview with Bulatlat, Pogoy has not had a haircut and has not shaved his beard as a sign of protest against “the human rights abuses and rampant corruption in the PAF and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, in general.”
Up to now, Pogoy is still under surveillance. “There are threats, but I don’t care. Just like I said, what is the difference between dying now and dying tomorrow? The only difference is the meaning of your death,” said Pogoy.