THE Defense department’s influence is eminently causing the delay in the Senate Blue Ribbon committee’s investigation on the controversial P1.2 billion UH-1 helicopter procurement deal.
The whistleblower, codenamed “Joey,” expressed this fear on Wednesday as he appealed to the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, headed by Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, to give priority to the investigation of the anomalous deal that involves billions of taxpayers’ money.
According to the source, DND Undersecretary for legal affairs Pio Lorenzo Batino has asked the committee to suspend the hearing on the controversial deal until the defense Department completes its own investigation on the matter.
No timeframe was given regarding Batino’s request, but it was learned that the DND would take 90 days or three months to finish its internal investigation and come up with its report.
A Senate insider confirmed that Batino personally went to the Senate office after learning about the filing of a resolution directing the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to investigate the alleged anomalous helicopter procurement deal between the DND and the joint venture Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RASI) and Eagle Copter Ltd of Canada.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito was the author of Senate Resolution 1238, which was filed on March 16 and referred to the Senate Blue Ribbon committee on March 17. Since then the resolution remained pending at Guingona’s committee.
The insider also told the Times that Batino personally went to Ejercito’s office just hours after the Senator filed the resolution.
“He went to Senator JV’s office to hand over a letter informing the Senator that the DND is already looking into the issue,” the Senate insider said.
But the Senate source cannot say if the DND official also dropped by Guingona’s office on the same day.
The Manila Times asked Ejercito’s office about Batino’s visit and his letter, and it was confirmed the he indeed went there to talk about the DND probe. The defense official even promised them that he would regularly update the Senator on the investigation they are conducting.
Ejercito’s office, however, did not hear a word from Batino since then except for his second letter received by Ejercito’s office last April 6, which informed the Senator about the ongoing DND investigation on the deal. The probe allegedly involves Undersecretary Fernando Manalo, Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez, and Col. Dino Dino of the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
“Joey” earlier tagged Manalo as the brains behind the controversial deal who even attempted to rush the delivery of the refurbished UH-1 helicopters from RASI.
“Joey” said he sees no reason why the Senate needs to wait for the DND report before starting its own investigation considering that the Blue Ribbon committee has the authority to conduct its own probe on the controversial deal.
“The Senate should conduct an independent probe, why wait for the DND investigation0? The DND is the one involved in the controversy and it is also investigating the issue,” he added.
“Joey” also appealed to Guingona to start the hearing because the longer he delays the investigation, the more he is depriving the Filipino taxpayers of their right to know the truth.