Rene Jarque’s Fight: The Father’s View
What does retired Army
Brig. Gen. Raymundo Jarque think of military corruption, which his son and
others fought against in various ways? What does he think has been
achieved so far in this area, and what more does he think should be done?
BY ALEXANDER MARTIN
FATHER AND SON: Brig. Gen. Raymundo Jarque (extreme left photo) and
Capt. Rene Jarque
Former Brig. Gen.
Raymundo Jarque and his son Rene, a former captain – both of the
Philippine Army – share the distinction of eventually becoming staunch
critics of the high military leadership.
The older Jarque
shocked the nation in 1995 with his defection to the communist New
People’s Army (NPA). His defection, he explains, was brought about by
trumped-up graft charges against him by his fellow officers.
For two years the
older Jarque lived in the hills of his native Negros Occidental, after
which he surfaced to become a consultant of the National Democratic Front
of the Philippines (NDFP) in its peace negotiations with the Government of
the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).
He is now back in
mainstream society, though he shows no signs of regret that he ever went
over to the other side, and is still being quoted in media interviews as
saying that the NPA is better than the AFP.
The younger Jarque
witnessed military corruption early on, just shortly after he graduated
from the U.S. West Point Military Academy in 1986. He joined the 1989 coup
attempt in earnest desire for military reform, and when that didn’t work
out he turned to writing hard-hitting articles in the various publications
of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Because of these, he
was subjected to various forms of harassment and was even placed under
surveillance. Disillusioned, he left the military fold in 1998, but he
didn’t stop trying to push for reforms in the AFP. He continued writing
articles against military corruption, this time for the national
newspapers and magazines, and even joined anti-corruption groups like
Action against Corruption and Tyranny Now (ACT Now).
His sudden death,
from cardiac arrest, last Aug. 19 came as a shock to many. He was just two
months short of his 41st birthday.
This writer went to
Rene’s wake and was able to talk to his father. What does he think of
military corruption, which his son and others fought against in various
ways? What does he think has been achieved so far in this area, and what
more does he think should be done?
Below are excerpts
from the interview:
Jarque was known as a staunch opponent of military corruption, and his
advocacy proceeded from incidents he himself had witnessed. Did you also
witness incidents of corruption in the military during your time as a
There already was.
During my time, there were sporadic practices of corruption. It came to
the point where the level went higher and higher, because the higher
headquarters saw that they could produce money out of conversion.
But actually, how
come there is conversion especially in the Army?
When I was a
battalion commander in Cotabato, we needed money. Example, you have an
operation today and you have a budget for one week and after that your
sardines run out, your rice runs out – so the operation is continuous and
your supplies are all used up. So if you have no cash and you are, for
example, in the Liguasan Marsh, your troops would not be eating anything
the next day, or you would loan for food. If you loan, you would have a
problem if you have no receivables, for what is your guarantee then?
And normally, if you
request for additional budget, it takes time, because you have to send the
request and what will reach you is a piece of paper. But you have to eat
and your troops have no more rice.
So to accelerate the
process, the commanders are allowed to convert procurements into their
cash equivalent. For example, you have on paper a procurement worth ten
pesos and you want it converted into cash. But you also lose something
there: for example you bring the paper to the store or to the supplier, of
course they should also profit from that. Out of ten pesos, you get only
eight while they take two, because that is like a ghost purchase.
But that time we were
only talking in small amounts, only thousands, needed by the troops. But
there were some people who became “wise” and the practice went to the
higher levels and we were now talking in terms of millions.
But tactically I’m in
favor of that because the commanders need money immediately for
necessities of operations. But only in amounts just enough to feed your
But to convert money
for your personal use, that cannot be done in our time. Say you’ll convert
ten thousand pesos. Can you build a house with ten thousand pesos?
But now it has come
to the level where we are now talking in millions. It has reached Camp
Aguinaldo. Senior officers saw that
they could control the release of funds.
So during your
time there was already the practice of conversion but that was only for
There already was, so
those who are being interviewed by the media saying there was none, they
The people must
understand that when you’re in tactical operations, the lives of soldiers
are at stake. But their lives are simple, you only have to feed them. You
can’t convert guns and ammunition because they’re there. They need only
rice and other food items.
But you need cash and
you’re already in the field. The sari-sari stores won’t loan out.
So with the level of
conversion in my time as a young officer, you can’t get rich with it.
Because we were not talking in millions then.
To the best of
your knowledge, when did it begin to reach such high levels?
The practice started
to reach high levels in the 1980s, and from there there was no turning
development is that we have Gen. Carlos Garcia getting into the hot seat
for conversion. If he wasn’t caught by U.S. Customs, the extent of
conversion would not have been exposed. You had no news of it. In the
simplest terms, he was caught in the act.
But as of now, the
practice continues. And the people are blind to the excessive wastage of
our budget, especially our military budget. It was just that General
Garcia was caught in the act.
We have to put up
strong measures now on how to cut down that practice.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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