>MANILA, Philippines – Bayan Muna party-list Representative Atty. Neri Colmenares claims that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) received at least 100% budget surplus for soldiers’ salaries from 2002-2010.
He gave the year 2010 as an example when the AFP received a total of P41 billion for the salaries of more than 134,000 soldiers of the Armed Forces. But the actual budget for salaries, based on the books of the AFP, Colmenares said, was just more or less P19 billion, a difference of 112% between the actual fund needed and the agency’s request.
This has always been the case starting from 2002 to 2010, based on the computations made by Colmenares.
Another questionable data for Colmenares are the records of the years 2002 and 2003.
In 2002, Colmenares said, the AFP received P50 billion for salaries of soldiers, but the actual amount needed was just P26 billion based on the books of AFP. But if one compares 2002 with the following year, 2003, the AFP had the same number of soldiers at 134,000, but the budget they received from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) was pegged at P32 billion, and the actual amount need was just P12 billion.
Surplus funds: P179 billion
All in all, based on Colmenares’ computation, the AFP received P179 billion in surplus funds. “Unless they can explain the discrepancy between the budget and actual staffing, pwedeng maghinala na ito ay ang source ng pabaon at pasalubong,” he said.
Colmenares added that the discrepancies probably went unnoticed in the eyes of the senators and congressmen who deliberate on the AFP budget annually because the voluminous financial books do not actually contain the actual total amount needed for salary. The total amount can only be seen in the summary, which could be mistaken as the total amount needed.
Colmenares admitted that congressmen and senators do not manually calculate the record books, and this is where the government agencies take advantage of the situation.
These surpluses are what is now known as the funds used for conversion, where the money intended for salary is used for other purposes.
But what’s worse, according to Senate Finance Committee Chair Sen. Franklin Drilon, apart from the conversion of surplus funds for purposes not indicated in the budget, there were actually no deliveries made on the supplies.
However, the documents show otherwise since the money was used for untraceable goods such as bullets, food and gasoline.
“Sa dokumento may dineliver na bala, na-ideliver sa field, pero hindi dumating duon, kunwari pinaputok na,” Drilon said.
Colmenares is calling on President Aquino to create a special team of auditors to audit intelligence funds, which, according to him, reached P2.3 billion during the Arroyo administration. These funds were not included in the list to be audited by the resident auditor.
“Ang Pangulo Aquino, dapat bumuo siya ng special team, pwedeng led by Heidi Mendoza, na i-audit ang intelligence funds from 2002 to 2010,” Colmenares said. Stricter punishment needed
According to public finance expert Prof. Leonor Briones of UP National College of Public Administration and Governance, the solution lies on how President Aquino will respond to all these controversial allegations.
“Lahat ng conversion of funds is happening in his territory…ang anti-corruption strategy na umuubra starts with the leader, sya lang ang may kayang magsabi na tigil na yan,” Briones said.
Briones added that a stricter and heavier punishment must be created for corruption cases from the lower ranks up to the highest official. This, she said, might deter corruption in ways that authorities and public finance mangers will think twice about the penalty to be incurred when caught stealing from public coffers.
But according to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, it’s impossible the fund for personnel services would be doubled since this is strictly monitored by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
“That’s not true. That is being monitored by DBM. Palagay ko naman tinitingan ng DBM yan. Examine the data first before making any allegations,” said AFP spokesman Gen. Jose Mabanta.