FOR the first time since numerous controversies involving defense procurement sprang out, President Benigno Aquino 3rd raised doubts on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program, noting that what is being bought may not be actually needed.
In an interview on Tuesday, Aquino said he wished that he had formed “pools of experts” who are capable of identifying what a particular agency really needs.
“For instance, in purchasing, when the AFP decides to modernize, how do we actually know that what we’re getting is what we really need versus what a proponent is suggesting that we need to fulfill our needs?” the president told editors and reporters of a national daily.
He noted that the common practice is that military procurements are based on what contractors could offer or what is presently available.
“It’s like they get something off the shelf and they’re trying to dovetail it into what we want,” he pointed out.
The AFP Modernization Program is a multibillion project that aims to make the military at par with other armies around the world.
However, controversies hounded these procurements, including the acquisition of P1.2 billion refurbished UH-1D helicopters that was first exposed by The Manila Times in March. Through whistle¬blower Rhodora Alvarez, who used the alias “Joey,” the paper ran a series of stories narrating how the project was “tailor fittted” for a specific contractor, Rice Aircraft Services Inc.
The deal, which is now the subject of a probe by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee and the House of Representatives, was “partially terminated” by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.
Alvarez, who is now under the government’s Witness Protection Program, had earlier ridiculed Aquino for turning a blind eye to the corruption at the Department of National Defense under Gazmin, his father figure.
Besides the helicopter deal, the AFP has been rocked by the issues on defective M4 rifles and overpriced armored vehicles, among others.
Sources at the DND said efforts are underway for the “acceptance” of another batch of “defective” UH-1D helicopters despite the project’s cancellation.