SENATOR Joseph Victor Ejercito called on the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to stop buying second hand equipment that could put the lives of soldiers at risk.
He made the call a day after a Philippine Air Force (PAF) helicopter crashed in Mindanao. Nine people were hurt when a UH-1D helicopter crash-landed in Sitio Lamsalo in Barangay Upper Suyan in Malapatan town, Sarangani province on Saturday.
Ejercito, one of three senators who filed a resolution calling for a Senate investigation into the “anomalous” deal to acquire P1.2 billion UH-1D second-hand helicopters, said he will ask the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to resume the inquiry.
The senator noted that dilapidated military equipment does not only pose a risk to its users but to the public as well.
Ejercito said he cannot understand why the Defense department would insist on purchasing used helicopters instead of buying brand new ones.
The lawmaker noted that buying “antiquated” equipment is not allowed even in local government units, and yet, the DND decided to buy “40-year-old to 50-year-old helicopters.”
Ejercito said he will ask the Blue Ribbon panel chaired by Senator Teofisto Guingona 3rd to resume hearings on the chopper deal which has been on hold since July.
Capt. Alberto Caber, spokesman of the military’s Eastern Mindanao Command, said the pilot and crew onboard the helicopter were transporting the remains of a soldier as well as five injured soldiers from the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion when it crashed after being pounded by strong winds.
The UH-1D helicopter was part of the 21 combat utility helicopters acquired under the controversial P1.2 billion procurement deal between the DND and the joint venture of RASI and Eagle Copters Inc., represented by Robert Rice.
Of the 21 helicopters, the DND accepted eight units despite alleged defects and the failure of the supplier to comply with the specifications stated in the terms of reference (TOR) of the project.
The irregularity was exposed by The Manila Times. The source of the story, Rhodora Alvarez, is now under the witness protection program of the government.