Duterte fires top AFP Medical Center officials

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – President Rodrigo Duterte fired top officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Medical Center, previously known as the V. Luna Medical Center, over alleged ghost transactions, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque announced Monday, August 13.

Duterte "has ordered the relief and court martial proceedings against the top military brass," including Brigadier General Edwin Leo Torrelavega, commander of the AFP Health Service Command, and Colonel Antonio Punzalan, commander at the V. Luna Medical Center.

He said around 20 individuals will be relieved, but he has the names of only two officials so far. "I suppose the entire office that has to do with procurement will be relieved," Roque said.

Roque said the ghost transactions in the initial report, which involve medical equipment, amount to around P1.49 million ($27,900). In the next few days, he said the government will release subsequent reports on "a series of transactions involving almost hundreds of millions of pesos."

Roque said Duterte made this decision after reading reports of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) and AFP chief of staff General Carlito Galvez Jr.

'Institutional corruption'

"Based on the reports, several high-ranking officials and employees of V. Luna Medical Center, the health service command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, undertook anomalous purchases of equipment and engaged in fraudulent transactions, including ghost purchasing, splitting of contracts to circumvent mandatory bidding processes, and conceiving of fictitious suppliers," Roque said.

He added, "Apparently it was a conspiracy. It was institutional corruption in V. Luna."

It was a whistleblower who bared these reports of corruption, prompting Duterte to order the PACC and Galvez to look into this, Roque said.

These reports came out on August 6, "which explains why the President aggravated in talking about corruption in the last Cabinet meeting." Roque said another thing that angered Duterte in the last Cabinet meeting was an allegedly anomalous deal entered into by the Nayong Pilipino Foundation. 

Referring to Duterte, Roque said: "He is ballistic, because only recently he ordered that the sum of P50 million ($937,200) a month 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, only to find out that bulk of the funds or much of the funds may be going to pockets of corrupt officials of the Armed Forces."

"He was personally aggravated when the information on corruption was confirmed in V. Luna – personally aggravated and angered." – Rappler.com

*P53.34 = $1

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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