DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/09 June) – The Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC) has called on President-elect Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino to implement his anti-corruption campaign by creating an independent body, “with civil society representation,” to look into the alleged corruption at the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP).
The MPC suggested former senator Wigberto Tañada to head the probe.
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Annabelle Abaya had earlier spoken about the alleged “anomalous and corrupt transactions” with the OPAPP that she discovered when she assumed the post in November last year. The secretary had asked the Commission on Audit to investigate.
Abaya had earlier told reporters that a P500-million project for rebel returnees that was initiated by her predecessor and President Arroyo’s trusted ally, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, has been infested by graft with P170-million unaccounted for.
She also mentioned that the previous OPAPP administration made some unauthorized purchases of vehicles and other unnecessary expenditures that have not been explained by the agency’s officials.
Esperon could not be reached for comment.
Pastor Reu Montecillo, MPC chair, said the independent body should also look into other financial transactions and records of OPAPP and that the suspects must be prosecuted and punished.
“The reported P170-million unaccounted funds could just be a tip of the iceberg on the extent of corruption happening within a government institution that is supposed to promote the noble task of peacemaking and peacebuilding,” the MPC’s press statement said.
Montecillo said the P170 million “could have been used to finance housing for thousands of internally displaced families still suffering in evacuation centers in Maguindanao. It could have been used for livelihood projects of the IDPs who are facing food insecurity, or provide medicines that could have prevented the deaths of the 263 individuals who died at the evacuation centers due to lack of health care,” he said.
“The OPAPP officials allegedly involved in the reported fund mess seem more interested in using the money for unauthorized purchases of cars and provide for excessive salary bonuses at the expense of the people that they are supposed to serve,” Montecillo said.
“Graft and corruption is so entrenched in the bureaucracy that only an independent body with representations of civil society groups and headed by an untarnished statesman, human rights lawyer and peace advocate like Sen. Tañada, can muster the needed political will to address this perennial and debilitating problem in government,” he said. (MindaNews)