A lawmaker over the weekend said he would continue to keep an eye on the equipment procurement of the Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to help ensure that they would purchase only brand-new instead of refurbished or second-hand equipment.
Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito explained that he does not want a repeat of the controversial P1.2-billion helicopter deal entered into by the DND and the joint venture of Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RASI) and Eagle Copters Ltd.
“I would still look into it [military procurement]to make sure that we will not be purchasing old choppers in the future,” Ejercito said in an interview.
The senator was referring to the P1.2-billion refurbished UH-1D helicopter procurement deal, which was terminated by the DND after the supplier failed to comply with the contract.
Of the 21 UH-D1 units, the DND only accepted eight units that were also defective, according to the revelations made by Rhodora Alvarez, a whistleblower, and one of those who have direct knowledge of the questionable helicopter deal.
The DND terminated the contract several weeks after The Manila Times ran a series of articles on the controversial procurement.
The series was based on testimonies and documents provided by Alvarez, who was nicknamed “Joey.”
The issue caught the attention of Ejercito, who then filed a resolution asking the Senate blue ribbon committee to conduct a hearing in aid of legislation on the helicopter purchase.
The senator, who has been against the procurement of second-hand equipment, noted that the DND and other government agencies should look at quality rather than quantity especially when the safety of soldiers is at stake.
Instead of buying brand-new items as stated in the AFP modernization program, Ejercito said, the Defense department opted to buy second-hand equipment that most countries consider as “unfit” for the use of their soldiers.
The blue ribbon committee, headed by outgoing Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, held several hearings starting May 2015 but the committee did not finish the hearings and no committee report was filed by the chairman.
Despite repeated requests made by the whistleblower, Guingona, who is allied with the administration, did not conduct further hearings on the helicopter deal until Congress adjourned sine die last June.
Ejercito said he was disappointed with the failure of Guingona’s committee to complete the hearing on a very important issue where the lives of the Filipino soldiers are at stake.
But, according to the senator, efforts of individuals who helped bring out the truth behind the chopper deal controversy were not put to waste because the Senate inquiry prevented the DND from proceeding with the deal.
“Out of the 21 helicopters, the military ended up accepting eight units,” he said.
Aside from the termination of the deal, the senator added, the Philippine Air Force acquired new Bell 412 helicopters.
“I would say that it (committee hearing) did not go to waste,” Ejercito said.