Former Brig. Gen. Raymundo Jarque and his son Rene, a former captain — both of the Philippine Army — share the distinction of eventually becoming staunch critics of the high military leadership.
The older Jarque shocked the nation in 1995 with his defection to the communist New People’s Army (NPA). His defection, he explains, was brought about by trumped-up graft charges against him by his fellow officers.
For two years the older Jarque lived in the hills of his native Negros Occidental, after which he surfaced to become a consultant of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) in its peace negotiations with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP).
He is now back in mainstream society, though he shows no signs of regret that he ever went over to the other side, and is still being quoted in media interviews as saying that the NPA is better than the AFP.
The younger Jarque witnessed military corruption early on, just shortly after he graduated from the U.S. West Point Military Academy in 1986. He joined the 1989 coup attempt in earnest desire for military reform, and when that didn’t work out he turned to writing hard-hitting articles in the various publications of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Because of these, he was subjected to various forms of harassment and was even placed under surveillance. Disillusioned, he left the military fold in 1998, but he didn’t stop trying to push for reforms in the AFP. He continued writing articles against military corruption, this time for the national newspapers and magazines, and even joined anti-corruption groups like Action against Corruption and Tyranny Now (ACT Now).
His sudden death, from cardiac arrest, last Aug. 19 came as a shock to many. He was just two months short of his 41st birthday.
This writer went to Rene’s wake and was able to talk to his father. What does he think of military corruption, which his son and others fought against in various ways? What does he think has been achieved so far in this area, and what more does he think should be done?
Below are excerpts from the interview:
Capt. Rene Jarque was known as a staunch opponent of military corruption, and his advocacy proceeded from incidents he himself had witnessed. Did you also witness incidents of corruption in the military during your time as a young officer?
There already was. During my time, there were sporadic practices of corruption. It came to the point where the level went higher and higher, because the higher headquarters saw that they could produce money out of conversion.
But actually, how come there is conversion especially in the Army?
When I was a battalion commander in Cotabato, we needed money. Example, you have an operation today and you have a budget for one week and after that your sardines run out, your rice runs out — so the operation is continuous and your supplies are all used up. So if you have no cash and you are, for example, in the Liguasan Marsh, your troops would not be eating anything the next day, or you would loan for food. If you loan, you would have a problem if you have no receivables, for what is your guarantee then?
And normally, if you request for additional budget, it takes time, because you have to send the request and what will reach you is a piece of paper. But you have to eat and your troops have no more rice.
So to accelerate the process, the commanders are allowed to convert procurements into their cash equivalent. For example, you have on paper a procurement worth ten pesos and you want it converted into cash. But you also lose something there: for example you bring the paper to the store or to the supplier, of course they should also profit from that. Out of ten pesos, you get only eight while they take two, because that is like a ghost purchase.
But that time we were only talking in small amounts, only thousands, needed by the troops. But there were some people who became “wise” and the practice went to the higher levels and we were now talking in terms of millions.
But tactically I’m in favor of that because the commanders need money immediately for necessities of operations. But only in amounts just enough to feed your troops.
But to convert money for your personal use, that cannot be done in our time. Say you’ll convert ten thousand pesos. Can you build a house with ten thousand pesos?
But now it has come to the level where we are now talking in millions. It has reached Camp Aguinaldo. Senior officers saw that they could control the release of funds.
So during your time there was already the practice of conversion but that was only for immediate needs?
There already was, so those who are being interviewed by the media saying there was none, they are liars.
The people must understand that when you’re in tactical operations, the lives of soldiers are at stake. But their lives are simple, you only have to feed them. You can’t convert guns and ammunition because they’re there. They need only rice and other food items.
But you need cash and you’re already in the field. The sari-sari stores won’t loan out.
So with the level of conversion in my time as a young officer, you can’t get rich with it. Because we were not talking in millions then.
To the best of your knowledge, when did it begin to reach such high levels?
The practice started to reach high levels in the 1980s, and from there there was no turning back.
The latest development is that we have Gen. Carlos Garcia getting into the hot seat for conversion. If he wasn’t caught by U.S. Customs, the extent of conversion would not have been exposed. You had no news of it. In the simplest terms, he was caught in the act.
But as of now, the practice continues. And the people are blind to the excessive wastage of our budget, especially our military budget. It was just that General Garcia was caught in the act.
We have to put up strong measures now on how to cut down that practice.
What do you think are the specific measures that can be imposed to cut down on conversion and other forms of military corruption?
One of the measures would be the abolition of the comptrollership. The office should be scaled down.
Because I remember, when I graduated from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in 1961, I reported to the comptroller, which was then only a section of the G4 or logistics.
But during the time of Gen. Fabian Ver as AFP chief of staff, they made the comptroller co-level with the other staff officers. There is a saying that “He who has the gold controls the world.”
So others saw that there’s gold in the comptrollership. Because the comptroller can just give you whatever he wants to give you. You need 100 pesos, he can give you just five.
The comptroller became powerful.
So was former Navy Capt. Dan Vizmanos correct when he said that military corruption became massive during Martial Law?
Martial law? I don’t know if it was massive, but of course during Martial Law, everything was under control. Everything.
That brought about the existence of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement (RAM). One of its issues was corruption.
Because at that time only General Ver and his minions were controlling the Armed Forces. At that time you couldn’t tell what was going to happen with your military career. Retireable officers’ terms were being extended for as long as 10 years, 15 years, that was what was happening.
Rene joined the 1989 coup attempt with the intention of pushing for reforms in the military. If you’re willing to answer this, on which side were you when it broke out?
I was on the government side. I was a division commander. My view then was that I would no longer join such attempts. EDSA was over and there would be chaos again.
How did you feel that there was this coup attempt in 1989 and you were on the government side and your son was on the other side?
I didn’t really feel critical about it because the Visayas where I was assigned is very far from Manila and the only action was in Manila. It was so far from our division.
If the coup plotters had won–there is a saying, “To the victors belongs justice.” If they had won, what do I do except to keep quiet about it? They want me relieved from the division, let them relieve me. They want me charged, I’d ask for what offense.
But I was thinking, maybe they’d take pity on me because I didn’t fight them, I was in the Visayas and they were in Manila. My troops didn’t move.
After 1989, Rene’s efforts to promote military reform were through writing, and he was subjected to various forms of harassment.
Yes, the senior commanders got angry. Maybe they were included in the articles.
Every so often there are people like Rene who exert efforts to promote reforms in the military — by whatever means, by any of the two means that he chose to take. What, in your observation, have they achieved in terms of fighting corruption in the military?
According to the news releases of the AFP, some progress has been made in that area. I read in the newspapers that the finance people are now being made to report directly to the chief of staff. I don’t know if there is now a stronger audit control.
What do you think should be done so that there could be far-reaching and long-lasting reforms in the AFP?
You have to revise old policies. There should be legislation so that corrupt officials know that their practices are punishable by law.
One of the things I remember Rene saying is that nothing short of revolutionary could reform the AFP. Would you agree with him on that?
It depends on how “revolutionary” is defined. He must have been thinking of something that is really radical, so the means could be peaceful but the solution is radical. In one of his latest articles he was talking of the constitutional soldier. The soldier must protect and defend the Constitution. Bulatlat