THE Department of National Defense (DND) has reportedly proceeded with the inspection in preparation for the acceptance of at least five refurbished UH-1D helicopters delivered by Rice Aircraft Services Inc., (RASI) despite of the agency’s earlier decision to partly terminate the “anomalous” P1.2-billion aircraft procurement contract.
The reported inspection was discovered after the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) wrote Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, chairman of the Senate Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (blue ribbon) and Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, informing the committee about the move of the DND to inspect five of the 13 UH-1D helicopters covered in the notice of termination issued by the DND earlier this year.
Of the 21 helicopters under the contract, the department only accepted eight units while the remaining 13 were covered by the termination notice.
The DND also forfeited the P44.1-million performance bond but blacklisted the joint venture of RASI and Eagle Copters.
A department insider told The Manila Times that the inspection pushed through last Thursday.
DND Public Affairs Office chief Arsenio Andolong said he could not yet verify the claims made by the VACC.
According to him, he has not got in touch with the people concerned but gave this paper assurance that he will provide the necessary information as soon as possible.
In a letter dated September 8, which was received by the office of Ejercito on September 9, Martin Diño, chairman of the VACC, informed the committee about the inspection of the helicopters on September 10 (Thursday) in Clark Field in Angeles, Pampanga.
“The Department of National Defense (DND) has initiated a clandestine and surreptitious move to inspect and thereafter accept five UH-1D helicopters,” Diño claimed.
The VACC official noted that the department initiated the move despite ongoing investigation by the Senate blue ribbon committee on the anomalous deal involving the purchase of 21 UH-1D helicopters from “favored” supplier joint venture of RASI and Eagle Copters Inc., represented by Robert Rice and the decision of the DND to partly terminate the deal.
It was Ejercito who filed Senate Resolution 1238, asking the Guingona committee to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the controversial helicopter procurement contract based on a series of articles published by The Manila Times.
The alleged irregularities in the deal were disclosed by Rhodora Alvarez, this paper’s source who was initially identified as “Joey.”
Alvarez is now under the Witness Protection Program of the government.
She has presented voluminous documents showing that the deal between the DND and RASI was “fixed” and disadvantageous to the government.
On March 24, a termination notice signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was sent to the supplier after it purportedly failed to comply with the agreed Schedule of Requirement of the Contract Agreement, which states that the delivery of should be within 180 calendar days upon opening of the letter of credit.