By Daniel Llanto i FilAm Star Correspondent
At least 20 military officials were dismissed from service and would face court martial proceedings for what Armed Forces Chief Gen. Carlito Galvez Jr. described as “systemic corruption” at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Medical Center (AFPMC), more popularly known as V. Luna Medical Center.
Galvez said the AFPMC which comprises the AFP-Health Service Command had become rotten to the core because of institutionalized corruption involving anomalous procurement of medical supplies and medicines from as far back as 2015 to present.
The AFP chief placed at 20 the number of military officers involved. He said typical of the anomalies was the procurement of prosthetics at PHP 1.4 million, which actually cost less than PHP 500,000 in the open market.
Galvez vowed to address the alleged corruption scandal in a span of one month. He made the promise after Duterte let the axe fall on the AFPMC officers.
Among Galvez’s promise was to fast-track the court martial, which was last used for the wholesale trial of 11 military officers involved in the so-called Oakwood Mutiny in 2008 to demand reforms in the GMA administration.
Based on his report and that of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), Galvez noted that President Duterte fumed at the scope of the anomalies and directed the relief and start of court martial of the “dirty 20” led by Brig. Gen. Edwin Leo Torrelavega, head of the AFP-HSC, and Col. Antonio Punzalan, commander of the V. Luna Medical Center.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque confirmed at a Malacañang press briefing that Duterte went “ballistic” upon learning the alleged misconduct.
Roque said at least 20 military officials at the AFPMC apparently undertook anomalous purchases of equipment and engaged in fraudulent transactions. The said activities include ghost-purchasing, splitting of contracts to circumvent mandatory bidding processes, and conceiving fictitious suppliers.
“It was brought to the President’s attention that alleged corruption activities have been taking place at the V. Luna Medical Center. The President has since read the reports of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission and the Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff Gen. Carlito Galvez,” Roque said.
The Palace official added that the AFP would be releasing a larger report which include other anomalous activities beyond the confirmed ghost transaction amounting PHP 1,491,570.
“There are series of transactions involving almost hundreds of millions of pesos. So, they will be releasing subsequent reports in due course,” Roque said.
“The total number of individuals, according to the Chief of Staff, who will be relieved, is around 20. But I only have two names so far. But they will be around 20,” he added.
Roque also said it is highly possible that the entire office that has to do with procurement will be relieved as well. “I think there will be widespread and many replacements to be appointed because according to the Chief of Staff, there will be no less than 20 individuals who will be relieved and subject to court martial procedure,” he said.
According to Roque, the anomalies were brought to light because of a whistleblower that went to the proper channels which investigated the said anomalous transactions.
Roque said Duterte was aggravated and aggrieved when he found out about the corruption in the military hospital, noting how Duterte was keen on modernizing V. Luna for the sake of the government forces.
“He’s ballistic because it was only recently that he ordered that a sum of PHP 50 million be released to V. Luna to make sure that V. Luna will have sufficient funds to cover all medical requirements of members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines,” he said.
Galvez for his part said he would order a “major revamp” in the AFP Health Services Command.
“I will cause the installation only of officers and staff with the necessary qualifications, competencies, integrity and unquestionable reputation to run this institution which is vital to the health and well-being of our personnel and their dependents,” he said.