MANILA, Philippines – The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) denied any irregularity in its handling of P274 million in donations to soldiers wounded or killed in the 2017 siege of Marawi City, saying the Commission on Audit (COA) report that questioned its disbursements was “not quite accurate.”
AFP spokesperson Brigadier General Edgard Arevalo told reporters in a briefing earlier this week that hundreds of soldiers appeared to have only received “crumbs” from the aid money because donations came in trickles throughout the 5-month battle to liberate the city from the Maute terrorist group.
Soldiers who were injured and who recovered early into the conflict tended to receive less assistance from the aid money than those who were wounded or were still recuperating later on, when more donations had poured in.
“Kaya may makikita kayo na nabigyan ng P2,000, because at that time, hindi pa po ganoon kalaki ang ating hawak na pera (The reason you see some were given P2,000 was because at that time, the money we had on hand was not much),” Arevalo said, adding that the amount was given to those who sustained minor injuries.
In its 2018 report, state auditors noted that of the 1,979 soldiers wounded in Marawi, only 949 received any cash assistance from the AFP, and 446 of them received less than P10,000.
In his briefing, Arevalo clarified that there were only 1,865 soldiers wounded in Marawi, and that COA came up with the bigger number as it had lumped in figures from other military encounters in 2017
Meanwhile, some 500 other soldiers received larger amounts. One of them received a total of P90,000.
Arevalo said soldiers with more serious injuries required more medical attention and were hospitalized longer, so they naturally received more cash than the others. The amounts depended on each recipient’s needs.
The COA report flagged that the amounts given to wounded soldiers and to the families of those killed in action only totaled P23.14 million, while the remaining P251.72 million was transferred to “implementing agencies.”
Arevalo said those agencies were the AFP’s different branches of service: the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Health Services Command, as well as the Western Mindanao Command that has jurisdiction over Marawi. The P23.14 million itemized in the report represented funds disbursed by the AFP General Headquarters – the military top brass stationed in Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City.
As for state auditors saying they “could not find any justification on the guidelines as to who among the pool of killed or wounded in action personnel would receive one rate or the other,” Arevalo admitted that the AFP had no “specific policy” on donations at the time the Marawi conflict broke out.
Although the military has standard operating procedures on entitlements of soldiers wounded or killed in battle, Arevalo said those apply only to the AFP’s official budget, not to aid money.
Nevertheless, the military spokesman said that the AFP will make the “appropriate changes” in policy. — Rappler.com