PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd was “fooled big-time” into believing that the P1.2- billion helicopter deal involving the supply of 21 refurbished “Huey” helicopters would be a success because none of the aircraft could fly nearly two years after the President announced their expected arrival.
“Joey,” The Manila Times source who revealed defects in the “onerous” and “disadvantageous” deal, said if Aquino was “fooled” in the Mamasapano operation as he claimed, he was also fooled into assuming that the helicopter gunships would be able to support embattled troops on the ground.
“Remember that it was the US government that even provided the choppers that were used to evacuate the dead and wounded. [If specifications of what were delivered were correct, then the helicopters should have been deployed to Mamasapano. So, why were they not deployed then]?” The Times informant asked.
“The technical specifications were not meant for UH 1D that were brought in by Robert Rice because the project was really intended for UH 1H, [but since this part of the helicopter deal]was manipulated by Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo by deleting the letter H and have it UH 1 instead, to make it appear that the intention is to accommodate other models. [The technical specifications were, in the end, found to be all incorrect],” the source said.
Rice is the president of Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RASI), whose joint venture with Canada’s Eagle Copters Ltd, won the bid to supply the refurbished helicopters last year. Technical defects and other violations, however, delayed deliveries but the Department of National Defense (DND) played along with the supplier, instead of rescinding the contract.
There were exchanges between RASI and the DND as evidenced by a number of letters in the possession of The Manila Times.
In many instances, Rice was asked to explain several discrepancies, from dates of delivery to specific parts of the aircraft.
“Joey” said the government should have terminated the contract at the first sign of trouble but, instead, RASI continued to deliver, with the apparent help of Manalo.
“Look, [Manalo] was a member of the SBAC (Special Bids and Awards Committee]. Then, he was the chairman also of the negotiating committee that awarded the contract to RASI. And, now, Manalo is also the chairman of the contract termination committee. Whatever happened to the principle of check and balance?” the source asked.
In his 2012 State of the Nation Address, President Aquino said, “Before the end of the year, we expect the delivery of 21 refurbished UH-1H helicopters.”
No chopper, however, arrived until two years later.
“The project cost is 1.2636 billion pesos. This was awarded December 23, 2013 with a delivery period of 180 days upon opening of Letter of Credit. Despite the fact that the helicopters are not compliant with all the requirements, the government is continuously accepting those defective units. As a matter of fact, the government is still looking forward to grant an extension of time without justifiable reason,” “Joey” said.
Contrary to the President’s expectations, what were actually delivered were UH-1D of the old and “obsolete” German model.
“During inspection, the Philippine Air Force inspection team found out that the UH 1D is not NVG (night vision goggle) compatible.
Refurbished means that the helicopters must be refurbished to comply with what are being asked for in the Terms of Reference. They are refurbished, okay? The President was fooled big-time!” The Times informant said.
On Tuesday, “Joey” expressed readiness to “tell all” in any credible inquiry, especially one that would be initiated by Congress. He said he will bare how RASI managed to bag the contract with the help of its “agent” in the DND who stands to get five percent of the contract price as commission.
The source said the “kickbacks” could reach as high as 12 percent, with seven percent commission intended for a “higher ranking” Defense official.