World News

Philippines names new military chief amid corruption scandals

MANILA (Reuters) - Philippine President Benigno Aquino on Sunday appointed an experienced fighter pilot as the country’s new military chief, hoping restore credibility to an institution facing corruption allegations.

Lieutenant-General Eduardo Oban replaces General Ricardo David who will retire on Monday.

Oban takes on his role after lawmakers uncovered large-scale corruption in the armed forces involving some retired generals who were found to have acquired properties in the United States and siphoned off military funds earmarked for soldiers’ training and salaries to their personal bank accounts.

The scandals have affected the morale of soldiers fighting two long-running insurgencies that have killed 160,000 people, displaced 2 million and stunted growth in this poor but resource-rich Southeast Asian nation.

Addressing graduates of the Philippine Military Academy at the northern mountain resort city of Baguio, Aquino also promised to punish corrupt generals and push more resources to soldiers fighting Maoist and Muslim rebels.

“There will be no sacred cows,” Aquino told 196 new ensigns and lieutenants joining the 130,000-member armed forces, saying his government will not tolerate corruption and judiciously use military funds to buy new boots and guns for frontline soldiers.

“We will correct the past mistakes and straighten the crooked policies. We will hold accountable all the thieves and all their accomplices.”

Oban, who graduated from the same academy in 1979, is widely respected among younger officers. He played a key role in ending an army mutiny in 2003 when 300 junior officers took over a high-rise apartment in Manila’s business district.

Oban has promised to reform the military’s personnel, logistics and financial system to stop corruption and focus on upgrading the army and navy’s capabilities.

Reporting by Manny Mogato; Editing by Miral Fahmy