• Gazmin’s plunderous blunder

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    DEFENSE Secretary Voltaire Gazmin probably thought taking the media for a ride (no pun intended) on the newly acquired UH-1D Huey helicopters would dispel widespread public skepticism over the Department of National Defense (DND)’s controversial P1.2 billion-chopper deal. Wrong!

    If at all, it merely fortified the belief of many Filipinos that something stinks about the Defense department’s “negotiated contract” with US company Rice Aircraft Services, Incorporated (RASI).

    For starters, if, as Gazmin says, all of the helicopters were “operational and functional,” why did he only use two of the 7 UH-1D helicopters during the flight demo? Is it because the other five choppers are still inoperable due to defects and missing parts, as disclosed by some disillusioned AFP officers?

    That the freshly refurbished helicopters delivered by RASI experienced mechanical problems soon after delivery is admitted by the DND. During the May 2015 Senate hearing, it was reported that at least four choppers showed engine trouble, with the engine of one Huey being changed entirely. Two other UH-1Ds suffered engine leaks while one other chopper would not start.

    Further casting doubt on the integrity of the chopper deal is the recent conviction of Thach Nguyen – the original representative of RASI to the DND bidding – who was sentenced by a US court to 57 months in prison last month.

    Nguyen pleaded guilty to wire fraud and prohibited brokering after falsely claiming to be a lawyer and a state department employee when he brokered the questionable sale of 21 refurbished helicopters – originally owned and manufactured by Germany – to the Philippine government.

    According to reports, Nguyen prepared two letters purportedly signed by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in November 2011 that went to the German and Philippine governments. Both letters were fraudulent.

    Apparently, the letters were issued so that Germany would sell – and the Philippines would buy – the UH-1D helicopters offered by RASI. That’s because under US law, the purchase, import, sale and export of defense articles like Huey choppers require the approval of the US State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC).

    Since the sale of the UH-1Ds to the Philippine government did not have the blessings of the DDTC, it was impossible for RASI to “weaponize” or make the Huey helicopters combat-ready. At most, RASI could upgrade the engine, refurbish the airframe, re-wire and update the avionics but only as a commercial, not military, aircraft. But that is a violation of the DND’s bid terms which asked for “combat helicopters.”

    Perhaps this explains why, as observed by former AFP chief (and now congressman) Pong Biazon, there were no guns mounted on the supposedly “combat mission-capable” helicopters demoed by the DND. Biazon was referring to the 2 door-mounted 7.62 mm machine guns – standard armaments for UH-1D combat helicopters. DND and military officials claimed the guns were removed “because it was a public test flight.” Really??

    If the chopper deal was indeed aboveboard, Gazmin should immediately release to the public the formal US State Department approval, not only for the sale of the UH-1D helicopters and the machine guns but also the serial numbers and import documents of the weapons delivered by RASI, if there was any.

    The recent case filed by RASI in California against its erstwhile partners in the chopper deal does not help Gazmin’s cause. We obtained a copy of the complaint and here’s what RASI said:

    “In or about 2013, after numerous failed bids, Rice received a call from a representative familiar with the tender for the subject helicopters for the government of the Philippines. The representative, now officially an agent of Rice in the Philippines, asked a representative of Rice to come to the Philippines to discuss the bids.”

    “Upon arrival in the Philippines, Rice learned that…majority of the approvals obtain by Nguyen were illegitimate….Despite this setback, Rice ultimately did enter into a contract with the government of the Philippines in December 2013 for the sale of the subject helicopters for a total of 1,264,977,615.52 Philippine Pesos (PhP)…”

    RASI’s admissions raise the following questions: First, why did Gazmin still enter into a contract with RASI knowing that the paperwork submitted by its then agent Nguyen was fraudulent and that there was no state department approval for the chopper sale?

    Second, who is this new “representative/official agent” of RASI? The Senate should unmask the identity of this crucial witness. However, that might prove more damning to DND and RASI officials.

    Insiders say that this representative-cum-agent is none other than Rhodora Alvarez, the whistleblower in the assailed helicopter deal. If so, Alvarez really has intimate knowledge of the deal and she would make a credible witness.

    For one, Alvarez claims RASI agreed to give Gazmin a 7 percent commission (or some P88 million) from the deal, with another 5 percent (P63 million) “for the boys”. That would qualify as “plunder”, a non-bailable offense, once Alvarez provides enough prima facie evidence.

    We will dissect the other irregularities in the DND chopper deal in our succeeding columns.

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    16 Comments

    1. Ano na nangyari kay Joey? siya ngayon ang nakakaharap sa kaso dahil sa extortion. Ang mali lang sa Rice at Eaglecopters ay delayed ang delivery dahil nagka problema sila dahil sa tinakot ni Ms. Alvarez ang kanilang mga technician. Pero napatunayan na quality ang refurbished Huey na deliver nila sa PAF. Ito ay gawa ng Dornier sa Germany license production ng UH-1H at ang “D” designation ay Dornier kaya ito’ng naninira na American junk ang mga UH-1D ay malaking mali sila. Maliit ang ibinigay nabudget sa PAF kaya Refurb. ang nakayanan as a stop gap measure sa kakulangan sa Combat Utility Helicopter. May binili na brandnew 8 Bell 412EP at 3 dito ay VIP. Kaya dapat sa Manila Times konting Research muna at huwag basta basta ng banat kasi nasisira ang tiwala ng mga readers ninyo.

    2. De Lima and Ombudsman Morales too busy getting their nails done to charge Gazmin for plunder ?

    3. You should check your facts. Weapons were not part of the contract. RASI was never contracted to “weaponize” the aircraft or provide weapons. The helicopters are not commercial. They are military aircraft. Once RASI learned of Thach Nguyen’s fraudulent activities, he was reported to the appropriate authorities. Likewise, RASI took appropriate actions when faced with Ms. Alvarez criminal activities. Her response was to use her papi, Attorney Lina to push forward her revenge through a second rate gossip column passing for a news outlet. And make accusations that are completely false towards shutting down the project to “punish” Bob Rice for not bowing to her threats and giving in to her extortion demand of 15%. Not to mention the embezzlement of over $210,000 and additional $110,000 kept from the performance bond she had revoked to again punish RASI.

      The two helicopters presented to the press were H model huey’s. The other 7 were all the D models already accepted by the PAF. The US Dept of State operates Huey helicopters. Most aircraft operated by the US are in the same age group as the Huey.

    4. Another one sample of corruption. Is this something that Pnoy boasted as his tuwid na daan. I think he should fire Gazmin first if proven that he had a hand into this anomalous bidding.

    5. Amnata Pundit on

      Since our military loves the Huey so much, we should just reverse engineer this more than 50 year old chopper and manufacture it here. Of course under this yellow regime, this idea will never take off like those choppers of Gazmin.

    6. There is always some hidden desire for corruption among officials. We have too soft laws to prevent this urgent desire. Until then, the circus continues merrily.

      • You may be interested to look into the C4ISTAR (command, control, communication and computer/ intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition and reconnaissance) project of the AFP. Last I heard the SBAC headed by Use. Fernando Manalo is considering a G2G or FMS mode of acquisition, when the TWG recommended limited source bidding, in 2012. There were originally 17 companies seriously evaluated and qualified by the TWG but over the course of time, 4 were deleted from the list and 3 new foreign companies were added. What happened?

        It is curious why the AFP is taking too long to implement the project. If this was only implemented and completed in 2014, the Mamasapano tragedy would have been avoided.

        This is a command and control infrastructure that will allow various major units and all service components of the AFP close coordination and real-time information on the field. Phase I is focused on the West Phil Sea. Something fishy is going around the AFP/DND community regarding this project. Something is terribly wrong with the leadership of the AFP and DND.

    7. Aside from this plunder, another commonality with Abad boy , is nepotism.
      Both have positioned their newbie sons/daughters into executive positions
      within the Government.
      There seems to be a “commisioner” too somewhere within this helicopter deal with a
      similar surname?

    8. A whole lot of Plundering going on in the Philippines and no one going to jail. The U.S already tried and jailed Nguyen while no one in the Philippines has been.

      What a surprise, a Aquino ally exposed for plunder and not going to jail.

    9. This SOB gazmin is as inutile as his boss in malacanang as he has done nothing significant to improve the defense capability of the country especially of the AFP. What he is doing now is to amass more wealth for personal use in spite of his advance age which unfortunately he can’t carry and use in hell…..

    10. It really escapes logic (if logic is to be understood in its universal meaning). They call it AFP Modernization. Yet they purchase military equipment as old as they are. Is it because the mark-up (pecuniary kickback) could be higher as compared to brand new ones? Their motivation is, first and foremost, their bank accounts. Lost souls. Lowlifes indeed.

    11. Honestly, I will only believe that this transaction is above board “IF” Sec. Gazmin, will be able to convince Binay, PNoy, Drilon, Belmonte, Abad, Soliman, Tolentino, Alcala, Abaya, Roxas, CJ and Gazmin himself. One UH-1D Huey helicopter for each of them. Instead of spending more money for their provincial sorties. Thank you.

    12. Justaskingseriously on

      This is a juicy dissection of corruption replete with faces and details. “Gazmin’s Plunder Blunder” would say it all. The blunder is hardly plunderous. And the plunder is hardly a blunder. It is always a blunder when the criminal “returns” to the scene of the crime. And to demonstrate the glaring details for the journalists’ consumption? Criminals are notoriously bumbling idiots. Wasn’t he with Mar Roxas when Yolanda cornered them in Tacloban City, Leyte? And weren’t all three stooges present when the question of the century reverberated throughout the pilipino diaspora? “Buhay ka pa naman, di ba?”

      • Those same clowns were together having lunch and a tour while the SAF 44 were being massacred.

    13. Modernization of AFP ,and buying a bunch of bell UH D1 a 40 years old helicopter model and call it modernization !! Thats the reason why we dont buy new ,we like ukay ukay defense , malaki ang por di yes por ciento , modern na may kupit pa .