AFP modernization hobbled by complaints

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THE modernization program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has been delayed by a flawed bidding system which can be proven by complaints filed in court questioning the way these contracts were awarded, according to Sen. Francis Escudero.

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The senator said a number of projects are either under arbitration or subject of a court case filed by a private contractor.

“The reason why a lot of allocations under the military modernization program remain unimplemented is because there are pending cases against them,” Escudero said in a radio interview aired over DZBB.

The senator cited the procurement of bullet proof vests and Kevlar helmets to be used by thousands of soldiers in the field.

Escudero said the budget for this project was allocated by CXongress four year ago but until now, not a single vest or helmet had been distributed because of pending court cases.

The Department of National Defense was able pick a qualified bidder but the military refused to accept the equipment allegedly because they were substandard.

“This prompted the supplier to file for arbitration and the DND’s hands are currently tied,” the senator said.

He cited another contract amounting to more than P1.2 billion for the supply of body armors for soldiers which also resulted in arbitration.

According to Escudero, three bidders joined the bidding but two were disqualified. The winner however failed to deliver the equipment on time.

“At present they are undergoing arbitration process once again,” he added

Escudero noted that arbitration and court cases involving government projects indicate that there is a problem with the bidding procedures or with the terms of reference prepared by the officials of the agency in charge of procurement process.

He noted the pattern in the DND procurement process wherein after three failed biddings, the agency would enter into a negotiated bidding. This pattern was observed in the controversial P1.2-billion refurbished UH-1D helicopter procurement deal entered into by the DND and United States -based Rice Aircrafts Services Inc. (RASI).

The deal, which is being investigated by the Senate blue ribbon committee, underwent three failed biddings before DND decided to award a negotiated contract to RASI, a bidder that was disqualified three times.

Rhodora Alvarez, who blew the whistle on the alleged anomalous procurement, claimed that the chopper deal was “tailor-fitted” to favor RASI allegedly with the help of DND officials including Undersecretary Fernando Manalo and Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez.

The two denied the allegations.

The Blue ribbon committee will resume its investigation on the helicopter deal on Tuesday.

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