Chopper whistleblower loses WPP protection


Rhodora Alvarez, who blew the whistle on an allegedly anomalous P1.2 billion UH-1 helicopter supply deal, may be removed from the Witness Protection Program (WPP) because of the supposed failure of the Senate to issue a recommendation for her inclusion.

Last month, Alvarez filed plunder and graft charges at the Office of the Ombudsman against several defense and military officials including Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin for awarding the contract to acquire UH-1 helicopters to Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (Rasi) and Eagle Copters Ltd.

The Manila Times broke Alvarez’s expose of the deal last year, which caught the attention of Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, who filed a resolution asking the blue ribbon committee to look into the purchase of 21 UH-1 combat helicopters, particularly into the report that the supplier failed to comply with the project’s terms of reference.

Gazmin terminated the deal on April 16, 2015 because of the failure of RASI to comply with the agreed schedule of requirement of the contract agreement, which states that the delivery should be within 180 calendar days upon opening of the letter of credit.

Alvarez said she was informed that the Justice department will be terminating her provisional coverage under the WPP by a notice signed by acting Justice Secretary Emmanuel Caparas in March.

The notice stated that her provisional coverage will be terminated on April 1, 2016 because of her failure to submit the recommendation of the Blue Ribbon committee signed by the Senate President.

But Alvarez said she had been asking the committee, headed by Senator Teofisto Guingona 3rd, for the recommendation since July last year.

Section 4 of Republic Act (RA) 6981 or the Witness Protection, Security and Benefit Act, states that a witness in a legislative investigation in aid of legislation “may be admitted into the program upon the recommendation of the legislative committee where his testimony is needed when in its judgment there is pressing necessity therefore: Provided that such recommendation is approved by the Senate President or the Speaker of the House, as the case may be.”

The only recommendation issued by Guingona was on June 1, 2015, when he asked then-Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to place Alvarez under provisional admission to the WPP.

Alvarez noted Guingona’s apparent lack of interest to issue the needed recommendation. She ssaid the blue ribbon committee also did not schedule further hearings on the chopper deal controversy.

The last hearing conducted by the committee on the chopper deal was on July 7, 2015.

Senate President Franklin Drilon said the panel deferred action on Alvarez’s request because the committee has no scheduled future hearings on the chopper deal.

The Manila Times tried to get side of Guingona on the matter, but he did not respond.


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