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Army whistle-blower now in hiding

ZAMBOANGA CITY — An Army corporal said he continued to fear for his safety and that of his family after he came out in the open with allegations of corruption against his mother unit.

Cpl. Melvin Alfonso, who has two children, said he and his family were in hiding now.

In May 2017, Alfonso started exposing the alleged irregularities at the Nueva Ecija-based 7th Infantry Division of the Army by sending a letter to then newly elected President Rodrigo Duterte.

Alfonso claimed he knew about the irregularities involving funds labeled as return to sender (RTS) because he was assigned to the Army division’s Management and Fiscal Office (MFO).

He said when he became part of the staff of the MFO in 2014, he moved to Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija, where his exposure to corruption allegedly involving senior officers started.

He said the 7th ID had three brigades—701st, 702nd and 703rd—and six battalions (3rd, 24th, 48th, 56th, 69th, 71st, 81st, 84th, Civil and Military Battalion, Headquarters Service Battalion and Service Support Battalion).

Shock

Alfonso said that during his first few months at the MFO, he was shocked at how funds were misused.

“(For) example, (out of) a P10 million budget for the division, only P2 million was actually used and the P8 million was labeled as [RTS]. The money (RTS) was withdrawn from government banks and delivered to (senior officials),” he said.

“My senior officers told me not to ask (questions) anymore because it was part of the Army tradition,” he added.

For every RTS, Alfonso said superior officers would hand rank-and-file soldiers amounts ranging from P5,000-P10,000.

He said he once delivered millions of pesos in cash to the MFO of the Army’s general headquarters in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig.

In 2016, Alfonso said he became a signatory to the conversion of funds into RTS.

“It came to a point that I was directed to make vouchers, check dispositions, recording process of the budget, or convert an ASA (Advise for Sub-allotment) e-mail from the MFO GHQ to funds and we have personnel tasked to produce fake receipts,” he said.

No audit?

Alfonso said all the disbursements and transactions passed through the Commission on Audit without scrutiny.

When he could not stand it anymore, he said he went into vacation.

His furlough expired on Oct. 31, 2016 and he had since been considered on Awol, or absent without leave, for not reporting back for duty.

But Alfonso said he got scared about being harmed, especially since many of his colleagues knew he was not ready to connive with those committing the irregularity.

Instead of returning to work, he decided to hide, along with his wife and two children.

After he informed Mr. Duterte of what he had discovered, Alfonso said he was finally invited to the Presidential Guest House in Malacañang on June 7.

There, he met with lawyers Daryl Ritchie Vallez, Rosbert Serona and Monica Calimbas-Lizaso. These lawyers, he said, were part of the Presidential Action Center.

Passed on to DND

“They told me the President was very busy and they handed over my case to the Department of Defense (DND),” Alfonso said.

“Since then, the threats and harassment have become intense and I kept on asking Duterte’s lawyers to take fast action on my complaints,” Alfonso said.

He said later, he learned that the DND referred back his case to the Armed Forces and subsequently to the Philippine Army.

Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla, the military spokesperson, said he still had not seen Alfonso’s actual expose.

“But I will also pass this on to people I can trust,” Padilla added. —Julie Alipala

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