SAYING that it does not want to compromise the safety of soldiers in the battlefield, the Department of National Defense (DND) has delivered the fatal blow that virtually pierced through the vaunted armor of the lowest bidder in the P1.76-billion contract for the supply of 44,080 pieces of bullet proof vests for the use of the Army and the Marines.
Defense Assistant Secretary Efren Fernandez, chairman of the DND-Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), said on Tuesday that they were standing firm on their earlier decision, disqualifying Kolon Globan Corp. (Kolon), a Korean company, even if offered the lowest bid because its products was found to be inferior and substandard.
“As in other departments of the government, the mere fact that one submitted the lowest bid does not automatically entitle said bidder to be awarded the project if its product fails in the post-qualification and assessment which is the most crucial stage of the bidding process,” he said.
He stressed that the decision of the DND-BAC to shoot down Kolon’s offer was in accordance with the Republic Act 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act, which supports the findings of the assessment/post-qualification body, the technical working group representing the Army and the Marines.
According to its findings, the metal plate of Kolon’s armor vest was found to be technically noncompliant as required in the bid documents, hence, it was declared substandard and inferior in quality.
Fernandez explained that while financial consideration is also important, “we must understand that the very purpose of the product we are buying is for the protection of the life and limbs of our soldiers.”
He stressed that the life of soldiers cannot be equated to the money saved from a flawed bidding.
“We have to do our job. We cannot compromise the safety and lives of our soldiers who are engaged in armed conflict and battle,” he added.
“As a retired military/police general, I am blessed to have survived those trying experiences in combat while I was in the active service. During those times, I have practically seen the many faces of death especially those of my own men who fell in battle and made the supreme sacrifice simply because they were not provided the right body protection,” he further said.
Kolon disputed the findings of the technical working group, maintaining that the force protection equipment that it offered to the military was responsive to the requirement of the DND, saying it has been approved by a third party chosen by the government, an accredited ballistics testing facility of the US National Institute of Justice (NIJ), following tests.
“We then offered a best price, value for money force protection equipment, which resulted in savings of almost P1 billion for the Philippine government,” the firm’s president, Byung Duk Ahn, said in his letter to the BAC, adding that with their disqualification, the Philippine government will be spending some P400 million more if it accepts the second lowest bid.
Besides Kolon, three other firms took part in the bidding, namely: Merkata of Serbia, JV Achidatex Nazareth Eite of Israel and MKU Private Ltd. of India. Merkata tendered the second lowest bid at P1.2 billion.
The DND-BAC required “multi-curve design” for the ballistic inserts “to avoid the possibility of body injury due to secondary impact of plate to the body upon the bullet impact, create an angle of incidence for increased bullet deflection, and for better ergonomic fitting and comfort.”
Kolon said that its design was multi-curve, which follows the shape of the human torso as closely as possible in order to maximize performance and comfort, contrary to the findings of the technical working group that it was single-curve in design.