Deaths in the military

Deaths in the military – that of a general, young navy officers, and a foot soldier – reveal of a systemic corruption from the high echelons down to the battlefield in the military. Their lost lives point to an organized crime that is happening inside and outside the military.

While these deaths devastated the immediate families , presence of an unknown organized entity in many levels sends shivers up my spine. Exposing, covering up or cleansing the military system of that well-entrenched organized brotherhood aka mafia, as my military friends termed, may cause one his own life. It is either you speak up and die, or you keep it to yourself and die of “hiya” we Filipinos know to the core.

Philip Andrew Pestano, a 23-year old navy officer who graduated from the Philippine Military Academy PMA), allegedly killed himself on 27 September 1995. He was found lying motionless perpendicular to his bed with a .45 caliber gun between his feet. Investigators found a suicide note on the table inside his room.

He was engaged to be married . He will never commit suicide, his parents testified. His mistahs (PMA batch 1994) said the penmanship in the suicide note was not his.

The young military man serving as a logistics officer had been a witness to illegal logging and drug trafficking while onboard the military ship where he was assigned. In a complaint his parents filed at the United Nations in 2007, it is said the ship’s commander allowed the ferrying of more than 14,000 board feet of logs even without legal authorization. Pestano objected to the loading of the illegal cargos.

Military officers Zosimo Villanueva and Alvin Parone who also knew of the illegal logging and drug trafficking were also murdered a week after Pestano died. Both had tipped Pestano of “the concealed bulk of illegal drugs in the more than 20 sacks of rice cargoes aboard the ship.”

PO3 Fidel Tagaytay, the radio operator assigned the day Pestano died, had also been missing. His wife testified her husband knew many things about Pestano’s death because he was the duty operator at that time.

In  2000, then would-be Sergeant Samuel Esguerra of the 42nd Infantry Brigade was demoted back to being a Corporal and was forcibly assigned  to Bicol where two young men killed him in self-defense allegedly. He was under the government’s Witness Protection Program he sought after revealing that his officer and fellow soldiers gunned down a helpless businesswoman accused of being a member of the New People’s Army in Quezon. The Commission on Human Rights and the Court found the officer and soldiers guilty of murder and robbery.

Esguerra testified that his officer and fellow soldiers divided the loot among themselves after killing the businesswoman. He also knew of the guns and bullets the soldiers sell to private citizens and NPA members who are their relatives and friends when their monthly pays and allowances are delayed.

Hope we all learn from the recent death of former Defense Secretary General Angelo Reyes.

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