Department of National Defense (DND) officials, with the help of Malacañang, are desperately scrambling to whitewash or cover up the massive anomalous procurement contracts.
Information reaching me indicate that a son of a DND top official has brokered some of the juicy deals under the Armed Forces modernization program.
Unfortunately for these racketeers, the Senate finance committee chaired by Sen. Chiz Escudero is likely to entertain a resolution filed by Sen. JV Ejercito. It seeks an inquiry into the highly questionable DND deals, such as the P1.2 billion helicopter and P880 M113 purchases.
Escudero told me that the Senate blue ribbon and finance committees will jointly conduct the investigation after the Holy Week.
And, I agree with the senator that, if the panel establishes irregularities in any of the transactions, it will press for the cancellation of those contracts and stoppage of payment to the contractors.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin must explain publicly why he approved these questionable procurement deals and name who “brokered” these shameless deals.
In the P1.2 billion helicopter deal, the DND awarded to the US-based Rice Aircraft Services Inc. in December 2013 the contract to supply the Philippine Air Force (PAF) with 21 UH-1H Huey helicopters.
Instead, the DND had nine obsolete and defective UH-1D type delivered.
The contract was approved by Gazmin in 2013.
But according to my sources, some of the irregularities occurred earlier.
Another questionable DND deal is the purchase 28 M113 armored personnel carriers (APCs) for P880 million.
It turned out that the P880 million funding was given by the United States government to the Philippine government to cover the costs of transporting 114 units of M113 APCs the US had donated to the Philippine Army (PA).
It was also revealed that the 21 M113s bought from Israel turned out to be third-hand APCs previously donated by the US to Belgium, and then sold to Israel.
So, these overpriced 21 M113s that the DND bought are actually fourth-hand junks, each of which costs at least P31.4 million.
Defense undersecretary Ferdinand Manalo could not justify the DND’s decision to purchase 28 M113 APCs from Israel instead of spending the P880 in transporting the 114 APCs donated by the US.
Manalo could only say that the Vietnam vintage 28 APCs bought from Israel are “refurbished and upgraded.”
Escudero noted that under the AFP modernization act, brand new and not used or old equipment should be purchased.
The senator also refuted DND’s claim that the M113s supplier Elbit System Ltd. made the purchase through a “government to government” contract.
Escudero said the deal was between the DND and Elbit, a private Israeli company and not the Israeli government.
He also pointed out that the money donated by foreign countries, like the P880 million from the US intended for the transport of the 100 M113s, becomes part of the national treasury subject to auditing.
Clearly, the P880 million have gone to waste when it was used for purchasing the 28 overpriced third-hand M113s, whereas we could have acquired four times as many APCs donated by the US.
During the PAF anniversary last year, four of the nine choppers delivered so far were presented but they would not even start, revealing “engine problems.”
These vintage UH-1Ds delivered were incompatible with PAF’s night vision goggles and lacked crash-worthy and self-sealing fuel cells.
It’s also clear that some shameless culprits at DND, along with their close relatives, have benefited from these anomalous DND contracts.
Observers believe that these shady transactions will continue to persist within our defense and military departments so long as this son of a ranking DND official continues to broker deals between private companies and the government.
Looks like Matuwid na Daan does not go through Camp Aguinaldo.