Spin doctor engaged to smear chopper deal insider’s credibility
Personalities involved in an allegedly anomalous P1.2-billion helicopter contract have contracted the services of a public relations practitioner to launch a campaign to discredit a whistleblower on the suspicious deal.
Rhodora Alvarez, who as an anonymous source in The Manila Times series that exposed the transaction was identified as “Joey,” appeared before the Senate blue ribbon committee on Wednesday and made a presentation on how the transaction was consummated.
Alvarez told The Times on Thursday that a “respected broadcast journalist” had tipped her off about the slush fund that was allegedly readied to bankroll a smear drive against her.
“He told me that an email was sent to him by the PR operator containing a lot of damaging information against me. I believe this is already a scheme aimed at discrediting me. However, I will not stand down,” she said.
Alvarez disclosed the name of her journalist-informant but requested that the tipster’s identity be kept under wraps.
“He was promised a huge sum of money in exchange for airing the attacks against me,” she said.
Alvarez added that she had been informed as early as March that some people have been preparing to launch a media campaign against her with allegations linking her to extortion as well as shady deals that she allegedly was involved in as an employee of the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
After the Senate hearing on Wednesday, Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo told reporters that Alvarez tried to extort money from Robert Rice, president of Rice Aircraft Services Inc., the other half of a joint venture that won the contract to supply UH-1D helicopters to the Philippine Air Force.
Alvarez said the “15 percent kickback” that Manalo claimed she demanded was actually meant for officials of the Department of National Defense (DND).
She, however, admitted that she was promised a three-percent cut from the contract.
“But this is not about money. This is for the country and no matter how hard they try to destroy me, I will reveal who was supposed to get seven percent kickback and another five percent kickback from the deal,” Alvarez pointed out.
Alvarez claimed it is widely known in Camp Aguinaldo where the offices of the Defense department in Quezon City are located that a ranking official was able to acquire a franchise of a popular food chain.
The official has since then earned the monicker “Assistant Secretary Langhap Sarap.”
Alvarez said she has evidence to prove that Rice had previous dealings with Manalo, as far back as the time when the DND official was an active general of the Philippine Air Force.
Meanwhile, according to Alvarez, the broadcaster refused to name the PR man who “tried to sell” the damaging press release and how much was promised to him.
“I call on our friends from the media to be vigilant and not to allow themselves to be used in this propaganda. I have no money. I only have the truth to tell,” she said.
False and misleading
The DND on Thursday said the statements made by Alvarez during the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing are “false and misleading.”
“We reiterate that the procurement processes in the DND are above-board, transparent and conducted in accordance with existing rules and regulations under [the]law. In line with this, it is the practice of the DND to invite third-party observers such as the Coalition Against Corruption (CAC), the Samahang Magdalo and members of the media to witness the procedures conducted by DND’s Bid and Awards Committee (BAC). The UH-1 Acquisition Project is no exception,” a Defense department statement read.
“The DND assures the public that truth is on our side and we can answer all points raised by Miss Alvarez in the proper venue, at the proper time.
“We thus question Miss Alvarez’s motive for smearing the reputation of the department and its officials. We challenge her to go beyond her rhetorics and back her statements with concrete proof,” the DND statement said.