DETERMINED to erase the “stained” reputation of military officials, Thomasian and newly appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Eduardo San Lorenzo Oban Jr. has vowed to tighten the military’s procurement process and accountability.

“We would like to look at this (corruption) as more of a challenge, a motivation for the entire institution to have an aggressive step towards reforming the armed forces, particularly in the area of financial management and procurement,” Oban said in an interview with the Varsitarian.

On corruption

A Pulse Asia survey of public perception on state institutions ranked the military as first on the list of “most corrupt” with 49 percent. Oban remains optimistic that he will be able to change the organization’s notorious image.

“We would like to take the people’s perception as a challenge and source of motivation for us to take aggressive steps toward reform,” he said. “Perhaps, we need to enlighten the public about what AFP had done, what it is doing and what it intends to do.”

After reports on the alleged corruption in AFP were published, Oban explained that since 2003, a “defense reform program” has been continuously enforced to reform the military.

“When I assumed office, my first order was to have no corruption and to build up institutional mechanisms on internal audits of all units, which will be checked regularly by an inspector general,” he said.

Footprints and blueprints

Following his appointment last March 7, Oban vowed to strengthen the AFP’s procurement process.

“Through improving our system, every transaction will be fully documented and accessed after the passage of the Government Procurement Reform Act,” he said.

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He pledged to safeguard funds from all sources, including those from the Balikatan, military exercises with the United States, the United Nation for peace keeping activities, United Nations, and those from tax payers.

“I will be held accountable for the funds’ proper and effective utilization,” he said.

Oban also wants AFP personnel to adopt a simple and healthy lifestyle, to encourage every soldier not to tolerate corrupt practices and discourage material gain. This will be carried out by the Internal Peace and Security Plan Bayanihan project, a six-year plan initiated in 2010.

To modernize and strengthen the country’s defense, the Philippine Navy and Philippine Air Force have purchased from the United States a first-class Hamilton navy ship and basic trainer aircrafts and combat utility helicopters, respectively. All these, according to Oban, translate to training enhancement and better air and ground mobility.

But he stressed that military men are not only combatants against armed threat groups but also advocates of peace.

Guidelines issued by Oban include strategies on how to defeat “enemies” through non-combat operations and at the same time contribute to the success of the peace processes.

“Making insurgents abandon the armed struggle and engaging in peace negotiations with the government are part of their permanent peaceful closure,” he said.

Apart from the construction of the AFP Roadmap, the OJ5 is also assigned to undertake a planning process to review the military force structure and capability development.

The newly appointed AFP Chief of Staff has full trust and confidence in his troops.

“It is a key consideration that they are reminded of the responsibilities that they have sworn to, while they have in mind that their welfare as individuals and Filipinos are also well-guarded,” Oban said.

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Tenure ‘too short’

Oban’s tenure will last only until December 13.

“When you look at his tenure, which is only six months, it seems impossible to accomplish the goals that he set, but he immediately got down to work,” said Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., chief of the AFP public affairs office, in an interview.

Oban was a member of the Philippine Military Academy Matapat Class of 1979, wherein he received the Aguinaldo Saber Award. He immediately joined the Philippine Air Force after military school and served as an undergraduate pilot, training in the Philippine Air Force Flying School at Fernando Air Base in Lipa, Batangas.

After being a pilot instructor for two years in Batangas, Oban was assigned as special assistant to the minister at the Ministry of Trade and Industry, military assistant to the deputy minister at the Ministry of National Defense, and group commander of the Intelligence and Security Group of the Department of National Defense.

He studied for a couple of years in UST prior to military school.

Oban completed a master’s degree in Business Economics from the University of Asia and the Pacific in June, while performing his functions as the Director for Operations of the 5th Fighter Wing of the PAF. Monica N. Ladisla

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