Rhodora Alvarez alias ‘Joey’, who blew the whistle on the questionable procurement of 21 refurbished UH-1 helicopters, filed plunder and graft charges against Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and several officials of the Department of National Defense (DND).
Also charged at the Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday were Bids and Awards Committee Chairman Fernando Manalo, Vice Chairman Patrick Velez and BAC members Nebuchadnezzar Alejandrino, Lt. Gen. Gregorio Macapagal, Col. Joselito Reyes and Angelito Castillo; Brig. Gen. Conrado Parra; Col. Moises Micor; Maj. Rene Rodolfo; Maj. Oliver Casuncad; Maj. Florante Baterina; Maj. Kathreen Guyanon; and Maj. Abraham Gemora.
Also in the charge sheet were Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo; Assistant Secretaries Patrick Velez and Ernesto Boac; lawyer Cherie Belmonte-Lim; Maj. Gen. Raul Gabriel Dunatatac, Colonels Dino Diño, Francisco Carada, Rene Raoul Rommel and Richard Ramos; and Maj. Reyjie Oacantang.
The head and members of the Inspection Team–Maj. Rene Rodolfo and Capt. Antonio Perez as well as those from the Defense Acquisition Office (DAO)–Edith Santos, Col. Richard Ramos and a Major de Guzman were also indicted.
Robert Rice Jr., president of Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RASI); Matthew Rice; Phil Kemp; and Michael O’Reilly, president of Eagle Copters Ltd., were also charged.
Alvarez claimed that DND and Philippine Air Force (PAF) officials colluded in violating rules on procurement to benefit RASI, which bagged the negotiated contract worth P1.25 billion in December 2013 for the supply of the 21 refurbished combat Huey UH-1 helicopters on the condition that they will be delivered within 180 days.
She questioned RASI’s capability to supply the aircraft, saying the company was merely a helicopter broker.
The Manila Times broke the story early last year based on Alvarez’s disclosure that the negotiated contract was crafted to favor RASI, and that the helicopters it delivered did not meet specifications declared in the contract.
As a result of this paper’s expose, Gazmin scrapped the helicopter deal and blacklisted the joint venture of RASI and Eagle Copter Ltd of Canada.
In her complaint, Alvarez claimed that the deal was tainted with irregularities from the beginning.
She accused Defense and military officials of committing gross dishonesty by rigging the procurement in favor of the joint venture of RASI and Eagle.
“These dishonest acts exhibit moral depravity on the part of respondent public officials. Said dishonesty was committed several times and [on]various occasions in the different stages of the procurement proceedings,” Alvarez said.
Gazmin, in conspiracy with all the respondents, according to her, “deliberately and unlawfully authorized the realignment of funds under his administration to be applied on other projects than those for which such funds [have]been appropriated.”
“It has been my constant position that these UH-1D helicopters were defective as the same were not compliant with project’s specifications provided by the government to warrant [their]safety during combat operation. True enough, one of the helicopters delivered crashed on November 07, 2015. On said date, UH-1D helicopter with tail number 8502 crashed in Sitio Lamsalom, Barangay Upper Suyan in Malapatan, Sarangani province,” Alvarez said.
When the Senate blue ribbon committee investigated the deal, she claimed, Gazmin was supposed to receive a seven-percent commission.
Alvarez said the other officials involved were also supposed to receive a five-percent kickback.