The Senate blue ribbon committee will finally start investigating the allegedly anomalous acquisition of 21 combat utility helicopters by the Department of National Defense when the panel convenes on Wednesday.
Three resolutions were filed in the Senate asking for a blue ribbon inquiry into the allegedly graft-ridden deal, which was the subject of a series of articles published by The Manila Times.
A similar call for a legislative inquiry is also pending at the House of Representatives.
The series was based on documents provided by a certain “Joey” who claims he was privy to negotiations between the Department of National Defense (DND) and the joint venture Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RASI) and Eagle Copters, which supplied the refurbished UH-1D helicopters.
“This is not for me but for the country. I know the officials involved will throw everything at me. But I will face them and expose what they truly are,” the whistleblower told The Times on Tuesday.
“Joey” said he would reveal everything he knows before the blue ribbon committee, which is expected to have him summoned together with defense and military officials led by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.
Gazmin had ordered the termination of the contract with RASI and Eagle Copters because of the joint venture’s late delivery of the helicopters.
The decision came after The Manila Times published the series of articles tracing the anomalies that hounded the contract, part of a program to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
The DND ruled on April 17 to terminate the contract, claiming that only seven of the 21 on-order UH-1D helicopters were delivered on the date agreed upon.
Aside from Gazmin, also invited to attend Wednesday’s hearing were AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang Jr.; Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo; and lawyer Editha Santos, chief of the DND Defense Acquisition Office.
Manalo headed the bids committee that took charge of the selection and awarding of the helicopter acquisition contract.
Aside from the helicopter deal, the blue ribbon panel would also look into other contracts entered into by the DND with various suppliers of weapons and military equipment.
Based on information obtained by The Times, the transaction violated the country’s Procurement Law (Republic Act 9184) aside from the fact that the seven helicopters initially delivered were found to have failed tests conducted by the military.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, who led the Senate initiative to investigate the deal, said he wants to focus on the procurement process, and find out if indeed violations were committed in accepting the choppers, which from the start have allegedly failed to meet technical specifications based on the Terms of Reference.
Senators Francis Escudero and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada also filed their respective proposed resolutions in relation to the AFP procurement process to find out if it is in accordance with provisions of the AFP Modernization Law.
Escudero, in his resolution, noted that the revised modernization act calls for acquisition of “new” equipment and weapon systems and yet reports said the DND is procuring obsolete, used and decommissioned military equipment and weapon systems.