21 September 2015
Bell UH-1D helicopter of the PAF (photo : Pinoy Aviators)
An anti-crime group has brought to the attention of the Senate the alleged clandestine and surreptitious move to inspect and accept five UH-1D helicopters in Pampanga despite the decision of the Department of National Defense (DND) to partially terminate the alleged anomalous P1.2 billion chopper procurement contract.
Martin Diño, chairman of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), wrote Senate blue ribbon committee chair Senator Teofisto Guingona III and Senator JV Ejercito to inform them about the inspection of helicopters delivered by Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RASI).
The inspection was confirmed by RASI, stating that as of Sept. 10, “there’s an on-going inspection and acceptance conducted by Philippine Air Force (PAF) pursuant to Notice to Inspect for acceptance issued by Defense Acquisition Office, DND to the chairman of Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee.”
However, RASI did not cite other details of the inspection like the number of helicopters involved.
Of the 21 helicopters under the contract, the DND accepted eight units while the remaining 13 were covered by the termination notice. The department also forfeited the P44.1 million performance bond but blacklisted the joint venture of RASI and Eagle Copters.
In his Sept. 8 letter, Diño informed the committee about the inspection of the helicopters on September 10 in Clark Field in Angeles, Pampanga.
“The Department of National Defense (DND) has initiated a clandestine and surreptitious move to inspect and thereafter accept five UH-1D helicopters,” Diño claimed.
The VACC official noted that the department initiated the move despite an ongoing investigation by the Senate blue ribbon committee on the anomalous deal involving the purchase of 21 UH-1D helicopters from “favored” supplier joint venture of RASI and Eagle Copters Inc., represented by Robert Rice and the decision of the DND to partly terminate the deal.
It was Ejercito who filed Senate Resolution 1238, asking the Guingona committee to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the controversial helicopter deal following disclosure of whistleblower Rhodora Alvarez on the alleged deal irregularities.
Alvarez is now under the Witness Protection Program. She appeared in the Senate hearing and presented documents showing that the deal between the DND and RASI was “fixed” and disadvantageous to the government.
On March 24, a termination notice signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was sent to the supplier after it purportedly failed to comply with the agreed Schedule of Requirement of the Contract Agreement, which states that the delivery should be within 180 calendar days upon opening of the letter of credit.