“The extension of AFP Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon’s term of office up to May of 2008, smacks of political payback. We are not at all surprised that Mrs. Arroyo will do what she can, including that of violating the law, to ensure that the last of the “Garci Generals” stay for as long as he could.”

Thus said the women’s partylist group Gabriela in a press conference, further stressing that Esperon’s extension despite the AFP’s bloody track record under his command also betrays the Arroyo regime’s intent to pursue Oplan Bantay Laya, its counter insurgency program that has received much flak in the international community.

Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Largoza Maza said “clearly we have a leadership that is over dependent on the loyalty of the military. Thus, under the watch of Mrs. Arroyo and Gen. Esperon, no military officer has ever been questioned, prosecuted and punished for human rights violations and graft and corruption. Moreover, under their command the military has been given more roles and power in the bureaucracy.”

The Gabriela solon cited that the so-called exemplary performance of Gen. Esperon includes that of withholding documents in the Jonas Burgos Case, and the continuing spate of killings and abductions while consistently denying the AFP’s role in the country’s worsening human rights crisis as noted by the United Nations.

Maza also said that under Gen. Esperon, the AFP reeked of graft and corruption, with the Commission on Audit citing unliquidated cash advances amounting to Php434,482,546.20 not to mention millions of pesos involved in inaccuracies in gas inventories, unsubstantiated book adjustments in 2006. Moreover, in the AFP’s WESMINCOM, supplies and materials supposedly already transferred to other military units amounting to Php1,075,073.92 were also unaccounted for.

“Indeed, because of the crucial roles that Gen. Esperon has played in the 2004 presidential elections and his assurance of the AFP’s loyalty despite growing restiveness, Mrs. Arroyo has no choice but to keep Gen. Esperon in the AFP despite losing billions in corruption and its bloody human rights record.”

Gen. Esperon assumed his post as AFP chief in July 2006. Of the AFP generals involved in the “Hello GArci” election fraud scandal, only Esperon remains in active service.” #


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