Chopper contractor turns tables on whistle-blower
THE American owners of the aircraft company that was awarded a contract to supply 21 Huey helicopters to the Department of National Defense (DND) on Tuesday turned the tables on whistle-blower Rhodora Alvarez, saying she demanded a 15-percent cut in the allegedly anomalous P1.2-billion transaction.
Robert Rice and his son Matthew of Rice Aircraft Services Inc., the other half of the joint venture that managed to secure the contract under the DND’s armed forces modernization program appeared before the Senate blue ribbon committee and debunked allegations made by Alvarez against them.
Alvarez, an employee of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, was the principal source of a series published by The Manila Times early this year that uncovered the alleged anomalies in the Defense department’s procurement system.
Now under the protective custody of the Justice department, Alvarez’s identity in the series was hidden behind the code name “Joey” at her request.
Alvarez claimed that the helicopter deal was “tailor-fitted” to favor Rice Aircraft Services Inc (RASI) and its joint venture partner, Eagle Copters Ltd.
Matthew Rice, project manager at RASI, accused Alvarez of failing to account for all the money the company has sent her to pay for various expenses like the hiring of people who will assemble the UH-1D helicopters as well as documentary requirements.
Matthew confirmed Alvarez’s earlier statements that she served as the joint venture’s local representative and was the one doing liaison work with the DND and the Philippine Air Force.
“She couldn’t provide details so we became skeptical of her honesty. That really brought us to wonder where iour money was going. We saw on her Facebook that she has brand- new cars and had vacations,” he said.
A total of $210,681 is unaccounted for or missing as calculated by the company’s accountants, RASI’s presentation to the Senate panel read.
Matthew said it was Alvarez who purchased the performance bond in RASI’s behalf for $121,460 and they also sent $110,500 to pay for the extension of performance bond in 2014.
In 2014, Alvarez went to RASI’s facility in California in the US and it was there where she allegedly told company officials of her intention to get a 15-percent commission or about P189.5 million in the aircraft deal.
The RASI official said they refused to give in to Alvarez’s demand. She then allegedly tried to negotiate a lower amount to up to 3 percent.
“When he denied her request, she sent several emails threatening us,” Matthew said.
A facsimile of her alleged message was presented by RASI during the Senate hearing.
A message purportedly sent by Alvarez read, “Where is it? Pay Pay Pay. Pay your obligations. Pay my commission to start with.”
Robert Rice, president of RASI, moreover, denied Alvarez’s allegation that the helicopters they delivered were defective.
“Where she [got]that the helicopters were delivered without rotor blades, we don’t know,” he said.