“Joey”—the anonymous source who helped The Manila Times uncover the Defense department’s allegedly anomalous acquisition of 21 combat utility helicopters–is a she.
Rhodora Alvarez, who claims to be privy to how officials of the Department of National Defense (DND) transacted business with a North American joint venture that won the P1.2 billion contract for the choppers, had requested The Times to keep her identity under wraps until such time that she is ready to come out and reveal everything she knows about the alleged anomaly.
It was Alvarez, a government employee, who requested that she be identified in The Manila Times series as a male person code-named “Joey.”
“This is it,” she exclaimed as she held a copy of a letter inviting her to attend today’s hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee on the issue. The invitation bore her real name.
Sen. Jose Victor Ejercito, a member of the blue ribbon panel who authored the Senate resolution that called for an inquiry, also on Tuesday announced Alvarez’s appearance in today’s hearing.
Ejercito had met Alvarez before the resolution was filed after The Times published a series of stories in March that was based on documents and Alvarez’s narrative.
Alvarez is expected to come face to face with defense and military officials, some of whom were tagged as having a hand in the anomaly, when the blue ribbon convenes at 10 a.m.
Her inclusion as a “resource person” was pushed by Ejercito and Sen. Francis Escudero, who also authored a resolution calling for a probe of the military’s modernization program.
“This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. I will discuss how these officials managed to skirt around our laws to fill their pockets at the expense of our lowly soldiers. I pity the pilots who would fly those defective choppers, if ever they could fly,” Alvarez told The Manila Times.
Robert Rice, president of Rice Aircraft Services Inc., which partnered with Eagle Copter Ltd when it vied for the contract,was also invited to the hearing.
“I will tell how they pulled it off and who stands to benefit if the project pushed through,” “Joey” said.
A similar call for an investigation was also initiated at the House of Representatives in March.
Cngressmen Samuel Pagdilao (ACT-CIS party-list), Leopoldo Bataoil of Pangasinan, and Romeo Acop of Antipolo City–all retired police generals–asked the House to look into the deal, saying the helicopters were obsolete and the transaction was done in bad faith.
“Instead of terminating the project, the DND allowed the supplier to continue with the delivery of the helicopters despite its violations and conspicuous disadvantages, which are inimical to the modernization of the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines],” they said.
Alvarez initially revealed how the bidding process for the helicopter acquisition project was rigged and tailor-fitted to favor the joint venture.
The P1.2-billion contract was originally considered as an “emergency procurement” in 2012 for use in the 2013 elections.
After a “failed” bidding, the contract was eventually awarded to the joint venture through negotiation in December 2013.
The model type of the helicopter was allegedly altered from the original UH-1H to just UH-1 to enable the joint venture to offer its stock of UH-1D helicopters, which are said to be an older and phased-out models in the UH-1 series.
Since then, only 10 helicopters were shipped to the Philippines among which only seven were “accepted” by the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
Alvarez claimed that not one of the helicopters delivered was “mission capable” because of a number of technical defects found by PAF inspectors.
“If the choppers were mission capable, they could have already been used at the onslaught of Typhoon Yolanda or during the infamous Mamasapano incident. Also, none of the helicopters was used during the recent campaign against the BIFF (Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters),” she said.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin ordered “partial” termination of the contract last March 25 because of the joint venture’s failure to deliver on time.
The contract was completely terminated in April.