MANILA, Philippines - A Philippine Army general and an enlisted personnel were placed under a six-month preventive suspension on Wednesday over their alleged involvement in an extortion racket.
The Office of the Ombudsman suspended without pay Maj. Gen. Jose T. Barbieto, commanding general of the Army's 4th Infantry Division based in Camp Edilberto Evangelista, Cagayan de Oro City. S/Sgt. Roseller Echepare was also slapped with the same penalty.
In a five-page order, the Ombudsman said the two officials were charged with the violation of RA 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) and RA 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees). The complaint was filed by several personnel of the 4th Infantry Division.
“Applicants are being extorted money in the amount ranging from P25,000 to P30,000 in order to guarantee their enlistment in the Army without having to pass the standard procedures adopted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines," the complainants said in the complaint.
The complainant further alleged that the money collected from candidate soldiers are being given to Barbieto through his alleged “bagman," Echepare.
The complainants also claimed that when candidate soldiers are unable to produce the amount, they are given the option to pay through salary deduction, to be given to Echepare or deposited to the Landbank account of Barbieto’s brother, Marlo.
In a complaint-affidavit, one of the complainants stated that he discovered the anomaly on January 31, when a group of young male strangers approached him, seeking his help to get enlisted as candidate soldiers.
He said the young men stated that “they can only pay the amount of P10,000 each because they came from poor families and cannot afford the P25,000 that CG, 41D (Commanding General, 4th Infantry Division) is allegedly asking, according to a certain SSgt Echepare."
Another complainant narrated that his brother-in-law sought his help to be enlisted as he was disqualified due to hearing problem. He said he was advised to approach Echepare to be able to help his brother-in-law. He claimed Echepare told him, “makapasok ang bayaw mo kahit may depekto basta may SOP na P25,000."
He added that they were only able to produce P20,000 which they gave to Echepare on the first week of January 2008. He said Echepare accepted the money but stated that “ide-deduct na lang sa kanilang sweldo ang P5,000."
Another complainant stated that he passed the AFP qualifying exams but another person took the exam for him.
He said after his training in April, 2007, he expected to receive P27,000. However,the amount of P25,000 was deducted from it allegedly because his mother requested for it. “Sa pag uli nako sa amo unya gepangutana na akong mama ang iyang tubag wala kuno siya magpadeduct sa ako (When I went home, I asked my mother but she said she did not ask for the deduction)."
Assistant Ombudsman Mark E. Jalandoni cited Sec. 9 of the Rules of Procedure which gives the OMB power to preventively suspend public officials. AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr was directed to immediately implement the order.
Wednesday, 5 March 2008