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Philippines army diverted millions of U.N. money, House hears

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Thu, 10 Feb 2011 01:09 PM
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BANGKOK (TrustLaw) – The Philippines armed forces illegally diverted $55 million (about 2.4 billion pesos) in U.N. payments for peacekeepers to an account in a private bank, the Philippines Star reported on Thursday.

The diversion was discovered in an initial hearing by members of the House Defence Committee on U.N. remittances to the forces, according to the newspaper.

Under government regulations, the money – paid for costs incurred by the government in sending peacekeeping troops abroad at the U.N.’s request – should be remitted to the national treasury which has an account with the state-owned Land Bank.

Instead, in 2003, the armed forces asked the U.N. to deposit the money in its account with the United Coconut Planters Bank. It is not known what the army has done with the money.

A forces statement released on Thursday said the information from the hearings related  to 2005 and before. It said reforms had been made since then, including separating the functions of financial control, audit, accounting and resource management into different offices and setting up guidelines for the use and monitoring of the U.N. funds.

Officials were not immediately available for further comment.

Assistant Secretary Lesli Gatan of the Department of Foreign Affairs, which helped deposit U.N. remittances to a Land Bank account in New York between 1999 and 2002, told the newspaper the department assumed the army “took care of the legal issues involved in the transfer of the money”.

The Philippines is in the midst of congressional inquiries on military corruption in both the lower House of Representatives and Senate upper house and Filipinos have been glued to the television and radio to follow the proceedings.

The Senate hearings resulted in the apparent suicide on Tuesday of Angelo Reyes, a former armed forces chief who was accused of receiving $1.1 million (50 million pesos) from military funds as a send-off gift when he retired.

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