Look who’s not talking.
Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito on Monday expressed suspicion of possible whitewash of an internal investigation being conducted by the Department of National Defense (DND) of a P1.2-billion helicopter acquisition project, saying the agency’s silence only raises more questions about the allegedly anomalous deal.
Ejecito, who proposed a resolution calling on the Senate blue ribbon committee to probe the helicopter deal, noted that it has been two weeks since the Defense department ordered the partial termination of the chopper contract but until now it has not released any update particularly on a written explanation submitted by the American venture that supplied the helicopters.
Ejercito was referring to the written explanation submitted by joint venture Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and Eagle Copters Ltd. regarding their failure to deliver all 21 UH-1 helicopters on time.
“My office, which is closely monitoring this issue, also has not received word from DND on the status of its internal investigation, given the deal’s partial termination,” Ejercito told The Manila Times.
According to the senator, his office has been asking the Defense department for updates on the questionable chopper procurement contract but has only received a one-page letter merely informing him that the inquiry is still ongoing.
In the one-page letter of DND Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, which was received by Ejercito on Monday, the Defense official informed the senator that the DND has started studying documents submitted to the department, including written explanations of Undersecretary Fernando Manalo, Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez and Col. Dino Dino of the Philippine Air Force (PAF); and the statement of Robert Rice of RASI.
Manalo was tagged by “Joey,” The Manila Times source, as the brains behind the controversial deal who even attempted to rush the delivery of the refurbished UH-1 helicopters from RASI.
Ejercito said the DND did not provide copies of the documents enumerated by Batino in his letter that could provide him additional information on the issue.
“This lack of information makes me skeptical of DND’s abrupt move to partially terminate the chopper deal while overseeing their own probe. Are they trying to cover up something?” the senator asked.
Ejercito said his office is preparing for the Senate committee investigation of the questionable procurement deal scheduled this month.
Aside from him, other lawmakers also filed their respective resolutions calling for investigation of procurements made by the DND under the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program.
Sen. Francis Escudero, in a resolution filed last March, also asked the Senate blue ribbon committee and the committees on finance and on national defense and security to look into possible violation by the DND in implementing the revised AFP modernization act.
Escudero said the revised modernization act calls for acquisition of “new” equipment and weapon systems.
But contrary to the provision, he noted, the AFP acquired obsolete, used and decommissioned military equipment and weapon systems.
The senator said the Armed Forces supposedly procured the equipment and weapon systems in violation of the procurement law or Republic Act 9184 by not subjecting the same to public bidding.