Opposition Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito said he is “not bothered” by the possibility that the administration-controlled Senate Blue Ribbon Committee (SBRC) would try to “control” the flow of discussion and revelations in the P1.2-billion chopper deal “scandal” involving top officials of the Department of National Defense (DND).
“It’s alright; the important thing is that the probe has finally started,” Ejercito told this reporter yesterday, referring to the start today of the SBRC’s investigation of the DND’s purchase in 2013 of 21 “refurbished” UH-1D helicopters from Rice Aircraft Services, Inc. (RACI), a private American company.
Two months ago, Ejercito filed Senate Resolution 1238 calling for an investigation of the transaction after its questionable details were exposed in the media.
Among others, it was found out the deal appears to have violated the country’s Procurement Law (RA 9184) aside from the fact that of the eight helicopters initially delivered, none of them have actually flown in an actual mission up to now.
Two more bills seeking to unmask the controversy were also filed by Ejercito’s half-brother, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, and independent Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero.
The Senate minority has been hoping that similar to the SBRC’s decision to form a ‘sub-committee’ to probe the family of Vice Pres. Jejomar Binay, Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona, committee chair, would also accede to the formation of another sub-committee to probe the DND scandal now centered on DND Sec. Voltaire Gazmin.
However, in an advisory last Monday, it was gathered that Sen. Guingona has decided to personally chair the investigation.
Sources in the chamber said this is to ensure that the administration would be able to “minimize” the “damage” that is expected to be inflicted on the administration as the scandal involves key appointees and trusted officials of President Benigno Aquino III at the defense establishment.
Guingona, like President Aquino and Senate President Franklin Drilon, is a leading member of the Liberal Party.
Aside from Gazmin, also expected to attend today’s initial hearing are Armed Forces Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang, DND Undersecretary Fernando Manalo and Editha Manalo, chief of the Defense Acquisition Office.
Ejercito has already been giving physical protection to ‘Joey,’ the main witness and “whistleblower” to the transaction for several weeks now and whom Ejercito also expects to present “at the proper time.”
He added that the DND’s decision to terminate the contract with RACI is “not an excuse” for the Senate to cancel its probe.
“In fact, the cancellation (of the contract) should give us added reason to investigate,” Ejercito stressed.