>News Update UN: No check issued for PHL troop expenses in East Timor

>The Philippine mission to the United Nations (UN) on Thursday said the UN did not issue a $5-million check to a military officer in 2001 to reimburse deployment expenses of Filipino peacekeepers in East Timor. No word came from Philippine officials in New York, however, on whether the UN made deposits to the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) official bank acount in Landbank or to a controversial bank account in the United Coconut Planters’ Bank (UCPB).

Former state auditor Heidi Mendoza, a whistleblower on alleged corruption among the military’s top brass, had testified in Senate hearings that funds to pay for or reimburse the participation of Filipino troops in a UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti in 2001 were first deposited in a personal account before they reached the AFP’s official bank account. (See: COA, solons want AFP’s hands off UN funds) Without identifying the owner of the account, Mendoza hinted it could belong to former AFP comptroller Carlos Garcia, who is facing plunder charges for allegedly amassing over P300 million in ill-gotten wealth while he was in military service. Key UN officials had turned over documents to show that all transactions between the UN and the Philippines on peacekeeping reimbursements “have always been guided by transparency as these were all properly recorded by the world body.” “UN records would show that the reimbursements were directly deposited to the bank accounts of the AFP either directly or through the mission,” a statement said. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DKPO) also said it had traced all the payments and found no contingent-owned payment of US$5 million made to the Philippine government. The DPKO said “all payments and checks covering peacekeeping related costs are issued under a cover letter to the Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines to the UN.” Ambassador Libran Cabactulan, permanent representative of the Philippines to the UN, said the $3.3 million in reimbursements for equipment that Philippine troops brought to Haiti are also accounted for.

He said these equipment are in the custody of the Philippine Consulate General in New York. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has admitted it was only in 2005 that it learned of the AFP’s alleged misuse of UN peacekeeping funds, but immediately took steps to prevent the military from directly receiving the money by taking full custody of succeeding UN reimbursements. Cabactulan’s recommendation is to remit to the National Treasury, for proper accounting and safekeeping, all current and future peacekeeping reimbursements to the Philippines. The DFA on Monday transmitted to Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, chair of the House committee on national defense and security, the documents related to the peacekeeping reimbursements that the UN made to the Philippines. The DFA said “it will continue to work with all concerned agencies to ensure that the utilization of peacekeeping funds is transparent, that the welfare of Filipino peacekeepers serving under the UN flag is safeguarded, and that the reputation of the Philippines as a respected troop contributor in UN peacekeeping operations is maintained.”—PEII/JV

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