THE Senate committee on accountability of public officers and investigations (blue ribbon) is set to look into the crashing of two combat helicopters that were acquired under the questionable P1.25 billion deal made by the Department of National Defense (DND) during the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
Sen. Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito filed Senate Resolution 369 asking the proper committee to investigate the incidents to enhance the procurement process and ensure the acquisition of modern military equipment for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
On May 4, 2017, a UH-ID helicopter of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) with tail number 469 crashed, killing the pilot, Capt. Christian Paul Litan, and crew Staff Sgt. Byron Tolosa and Airman First Class Joseph de Leon and injuring 1stLt. Ceazar Rinas.
The helicopter went down in Sitio Hilltop, Barangay Sampaloc, Tanay, Rizal, during an air to ground and disaster rescue operation training.
The tragic incident happened six months after another UH-ID Huey helicopter crashed in Malapatan, Sarangani province while on a mission to evacuate injured soldiers.
The crash that happened on November 7, 2016 wounded nine occupants of the helicopter, including pilots, crew and soldiers.
The helicopters were purchased by the DND, then under Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, in December 2013 from Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RASI) and Eagle Copters, Ltd.
The Manila Times published a series of exclusive stories about the deal based on the revelations of a whistleblower.
The previous congress investigated the chopper deal amid allegations of irregularity and corruption. A whistleblower, Rhodora Alvarez, who claimed that the contract was “supplier-friendly” and “tailor-fitted” for a favored bidder.
The writer of the stories, Joel Sy-Egco, is now an undersecretary and is the executive director of the Presidential Task Force on Media Security.
The DND denied Alvarez’s claim that the helicopter deal was anomalous. But at the height of the Senate investigation, the contract was terminated on March 25, 2015 with only eight units of the 21 units delivered and accepted by the PAF.
There were reports that despite the termination of the contract and allegations that the helicopters were not airworthy, the DND and AFP accepted the remaining 13 refurbished choppers from RASI.
“There is a need to scrutinize the supply contracts of our air assets, navy and army weapons and equipment, not only to preserve the integrity of the entire AFP Modernization Program but also to preserve the lives of our military men who deserve better than the ancient and antiquated aircraft procured by the past administration,” Ejercito said in his resolution.