7% meant for Defense Secretary, says helicopter dealer
THE American contractors in the allegedly anomalous P1.2-billion helicopter acquisition project confirmed a deal insider’s allegation that 15 percent of the contract amount was set aside for government and military officials.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was allegedly among the officials who were to get a share of the deal, according to whistle-blower Rhodora Alvarez. She said Gazmin was to get 7 percent while Defense Department officials were to split 5 percent, and 3 percent was allegedly offered to her. She however, refused to take what was promised her.
Alvarez earlier submitted a sworn statement to the Senate blue ribbon committee where she said the contractor, Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RASI), promised to give a “commission” to all those involved in getting the transaction approved and awarded.
Alvarez–then identified as “Joey”–had exposed the alleged anomaly, including the handing out of commissions to Defense and Air Force officials, in interviews given to The Manila Times early this year.
Alvarez reiterated in her affidavit what she told The Manila Times that RASI’s former country representative, Thach Nguyen, had made a commitment on how the commission would be divided.
“[Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo] confirmed to Mr. [Robert] Rice that Mr. Nguyen committed to give 7-percent commission to SND [Secretary of National Defense] and 5 percent down the line,” Alvarez stated in her sworn affidavit.
According to her, among those who will share in the 5 percent were Manalo, Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez and other individuals whom she did not name.
Alvarez also stated in her affidavit that Rice promised to give her a 3-percent commission once RASI receives the payment for the helicopters.
She, however, could not confirm if Gazmin was given the 7-percent cut that was supposed to be set aside for him as she already withdrew from the deal after learning about the commission offer.
Alvarez said Rice tried to convince her to sign a contract with him because that is the only way the latter could justify the 15-percent commission.
“I already discovered the anomalies and irregular things that he [Robert] did just to ensure that he will get the project. And these include his pronouncement that he wants me to enter into a contract with him because it is the only way by which he can justify in the US the 7 and 5 percent commission intended for DND,” she added.
According to her, Robert told her that she is entitled to a total of 15-percent commission.
Alvarez said she was even warned by Robert not to discuss the “commission” matter via electronic mail (e-mail) because it can be accessed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Gazmin failed to attend the Senate hearing as he was in The Netherlands as part of a high-profile delegation attending a hearing of a case filed by the Philippines against China with the Permanent Court of Arbitration.
At the resumption of the Senate blue ribbon investigation of the anomalous helicopter deal early this week, Robert Rice and son Matthew Rice accused Alvarez of demanding a 15-percent commission from the P1.2-billion project cost.
In her affidavit, Alvarez said she turned down the offer to get a cut after learning about the alleged “commission” during a meeting between Manalo and Robert Rice, president of RASI, at Manalo’s office at the Department of National Defense (DND) on November 4, 2013.
She added that it was Manalo who instructed her to discreetly usher in Rice into his office.
Alvarez said it was in the meeting where Manalo reminded Rice about a commitment earlier made by Nguyen to give a commission.
The Manila Times earlier reported that it was Nguyen who sought Alvarez’s help in securing a Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) clearance for RASI in July 2012.
RASI, during the hearing, denied all allegations made by Alvarez against the firm.
But Sen. Teofisto Guingona 3rd, chairman of the blue ribbon committee, said the motive of Alvarez in coming out with the expose is irrelevant in the ongoing Senate committee investigation because the main purpose of the committee is to determine if the procedures of the law on the purchase of helicopters were followed.
“Regardless of motive, was there corruption? [Did] the government officials in charge of the purchase [receive]bribes?” Guingona asked during the hearing.
He said the committee also wants to know if the specifications of the helicopters were tailor-made or changed so that they would favor a specific supplier.
“These are the important points that we need to find out,” Guingona added.