A full no-nonsense congressional investigation into the anomalous procurement contracts of the Department of Defense (DND) should expose the plunderers of public funds supposedly intended to upgrade the Armed Forces’ capability.
This is a compelling issue that the Senate’s blue ribbon committee or its committee on finance or defense or all three must seriously look into, as this involves massive graft and corruption scams at Camp Aguinaldo.
This is also another indication how ineffective and inutile Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin has been at his post.
Gazmin’s department embarked on the “modernization” of the military in view of increasing internal and external threats to our national security.
It turned out that such efforts to upgrade the military are also used by some officials as their means to upgrade their wealth by fleecing the DND.
We tackled last week one anomalous P1.2 billion project wherein the DND awarded to foreign partners the contract to supply the Philippine Air Force with 21 UH-1H Huey helicopters.
Instead the obsolete and defective UH-1D type, and only nine of the 21 units ordered, have been delivered.
Today, we take on this other questionable DND decision to purchase 28 M113 armored personnel carriers (APCs) for P880 million instead of shipping in 114 units of M113 donated by the United States.
It turnsout that the 21 M113s bought from Israel, each of which costs at least P31.4 million, are third-hand APCs previously used in Belgium, US and Israel.
In my tele-radyo 5 interview with Defense undersecretary Ferdinand Manalo, he could not justify the DND’s decision to purchase 28 M113 APCs from Israel instead of spending less on transporting the 114 APCs from the US.
Manalo could only mention that the Vietnam vintage 28 APCs or tanks bought are refurbished and upgraded.
Just the same, those US donated APCs might actually be in better shape and could have been equipped with .50 caliber M2 machine guns.
Like Manalo, Philippine Army spokesperson Lt. Col. Noel Detoyato could also not explain the logic of the DND’s purchase decision except that it stinks.
It is imperative that Manalo and his boss Gazmin must explain and justify this DND move, overspending on 28 40-year old M113 APCs instead of just shipping in fouor times more units given free by the US. It’s a no brainer–28 costing P880 million versus 118 units for free!
Gazmin must also respond to reports that “a relative” of his actually brokered this unnecessary P880 million procurement project.
Apparently, the Noynoy administration’s military modernization program has only benefited his cronies at Camp Aquinaldo.
So much with “matuwid na daan.”
Senator JV Ejercito has called for a Senate probe into these DND irregularities.
The question is: Will Sen. Franklin Drilon’s shameless and vindictive leadership allow an inquiry into these overspending and overpricing scams at DND?
Why, Drilon himself still has a lot of explaining to do about some overpricing in the Iloilo Convention Center.
Gazmin must face the music if he is proven to have abused his power or exercised grave indiscretion in approving DND’s shady deals.
Meanwhile, China has continued to expand its claim on South China Sea (which we now call West Philippine Sea.)
And the killing fields of Maguindanao are now controlled by local and foreign terrorists who vow loyalty to other countries. They have built more training camps.
Resurgent communist insurgents have increasingly caused casualties on Armed Forces troops.
Abu Sayyaf groups continue their kidnapping activity with sheer impunity in the Muslim South.
Clearly, the AFP’s modernization program has barely improved the sad state of the military’s capabilities to defend the country.
But, DND’s spending spree has obviously enriched some crooks at Camp Aguinaldo.
Clearly, Aqiuno’s anti-corruption drive is only applicable to its enemies.