THE whistleblower in the controversial P1.2-billion UH-1D second-hand chopper deal has requested that the Senate blue ribbon committee resume its investigation of the transaction in light of recent incidents involving the questionable helicopters.
In a two-page letter sent by Rhodora Alvarez, an employee of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) who claimed that the multibillion helicopter deal was rigged, recently asked Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, committee chairman, for continuation of hearings for her to provide vital information about a helicopter crash in November and the acceptance of additional units that have been disallowed by Department of National Defense (DND).
Alvarez, in a letter dated December 7, 2015, stated that the crash involving a UH-1D helicopter with tail number 8502 at Sitio Lamsalo, Barangay Upper Suyan, Malapatan in Sarangani province proves that the refurbished helicopters procured by the DND were “profoundly defective.”
“They [helicopters]were not refurbished in accordance with the standards required by the law,” she said in her letter.
Nine people were reportedly hurt in the crash of the UH-1D helicopter because of strong winds in the area.
The pilot and crew on board the helicopter were transporting remains of a soldier as well as five other soldiers from the Army’s 73rd Infantry Battalion who were wounded in a clash with communist New People’s Army (NPA) rebels when it crash-landed.
The chopper was part of the 21 combat utility helicopters in 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 Defense department accepted eight units despite alleged defects of the units and failure of the supplier to comply with specifications stated in the Terms of Reference (TOR) of the project.
Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito, one of the three senators who filed a resolution asking the blue ribbon committee to investigate the “anomalous” procurement, said the crash has validated his concern against buying old and dilapidated second-hand military equipment that could put lives of soldiers at risk.
Ejercito noted that the DND and other government agencies should make a priority quality rather than quantity especially if the safety of the soldiers is at stake.
Instead of buying brand new items as stated in the AFP modernization program, he said, the Defense department opted to buy second-hand equipment that most countries consider as “unfit” for the use of their soldiers.
Alvarez also informed the Guingona committee about allegedly atrocious move made by the Philippine Air Force (PAF), with instructions from the DND, to accept some UH-1D helicopter last September despite the contract expiring on April 6, 2016.
She was referring to Notice of the Decision signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin dated April 16, 2015, informing RASI that the contract has been terminated.
But despite the notice, the PAF reportedly still inspected and accepted several UH-1D helicopters in ceremony held at Clark Field in Pampanga province.
“To these developments, I profusely request the continuation of investigation relating to this rigged bidding process of defective 21 UH-1D helicopters in order to disclose vital information relating to this incident,” Alvarez said, referring to the recent UH-1D crash.
The last hearing conducted by the blue ribbon committee on the chopper deal was on July 7.