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Philippines probes charge generals stole millions

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MANILA, Philippines >> The Philippine justice secretary promised Tuesday that allegations that senior generals plundered military coffers for millions of dollars would be promptly investigated to prevent the scandal from seriously damaging one of Asia’s poorest militaries.

Long entrenched in Philippine society, corruption is an especially explosive issue in the inadequately equipped and underfunded military and has sparked several rebellions by disgruntled troops in the past 25 years.

Last week, a former military budget officer, Lt. Col. George Rabusa, filed criminal complaints accusing three former military chiefs of staff and 14 other officers of pocketing more than 2 billion pesos ($45 million) of funds intended for combat, intelligence and troops salaries.

All those accused have denied any wrongdoing.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the country’s top prosecutor will lead a high-level team to examine the evidence presented by Rabusa, who has been offered protection as a government witness.

The prosecutors should rule in 60 days whether the evidence is strong enough to indict the generals.

De Lima said she ordered state prosecutors to address the criminals complaints "expeditiously" because of their "repercussions to the Armed Forces of the Philippines as an institution."

Rabusa has claimed that the money was diverted from the military budget into a special fund that the generals tapped with the help of military comptrollers.

Testifying before the Senate starting in January, Rabusa alleged that the stolen funds included those intended for joint military exercises with U.S. troops and U.N. reimbursements for expenses incurred by Filipino peacekeeping troops abroad.

Former military chief and Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, whom Rabusa had also accused of massive corruption, strongly denied the allegations. Reyes committed suicide at his mother’s grave last February. 

 

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