Villar vows ‘meaty’ budget for military

Villar vows ‘meaty’ budget for military
By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Attempting to court the military vote, Nacionalista Party presidential candidate Sen. Manuel Villar on Friday promised a “meaty” budget for the Armed Forces’ modernization program, if he wins in May.

Villar said he would put 10 percent of the annual revenues from the value-added tax (VAT) into a fund for the replacement of “flying and floating coffins with modern assets,” which would give the military a minimum of P15 billion annually to play with.

Villar announced this a day after the NP slate, led by vice presidential candidate Sen. Loren Legarda, managed to offend the AFP top brass when they staged a so-called “unity walk” with detained rebel officer Ariel Querubin, who is seeking a Senate seat under the NP, inside Camp Aguinaldo.

The military headquarters, where Querubin and other coup leaders are being detained while undergoing court martial, has been declared off-limits to political campaigning.

Villar’s promise of more funds to bankroll a weapons upgrade for the military was music to the ears of Querubin, a decorated Marine colonel who led a band of Marines in a six-hour standoff at the Fort Bonifacio Marine headquarters during a failed coup attempt in 2006, calling for civilians to protect them.

“This is a welcome development. The Villar-Legarda team truly cares for the needs of our soldiers. We made the right choice in supporting them,” said Querubin in a text message forwarded by his stepson, Martin Loon.

Villar’s gambit was, however, unappreciated by another senatorial candidate on his slate, leftist representative Satur Ocampo of the Bayan Muna party-list group.

“We oppose the AFP modernization now because the weapons and equipment upgrade is aimed at enhancing the AFP’s capability to protect those in power and suppress the people seeking basic social, economic and political change,” said Ocampo in a text message.

Villar described as “pitifully inadequate” the P5-billion yearly budget for the AFP’s modernization and vowed to tuck into the annual budget that he would send to Congress a “meaty” AFP modernization fund “that will be promptly released and properly spent.”

“I am thinking of allocating 10 percent of the annual VAT revenue for a replacement program of military ships, aircraft and other hardware,” he said.

But he admitted that his administration would have to first eradicate corruption in the AFP, explaining that “if we can get 10 percent from an anticorruption drive (within the AFP), the amount will be enough to fund the modernization program.”

“If we can curb this purported corruption in the military by at least 50 percent, we can generate savings that could be channeled to the purchase of the basic needs of the soldiers in the field like combat boots, combat rations and ammunition,” he said.

Campaigning Friday in Batangas City, Villar explained that the NP candidates who went to Querubin’s place of detention in Camp Aguinaldo were not campaigning.

The ProPinoy Project