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10:40 AM, March 17, 2016
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Senior Philippine Defense Officials Accused In UH-1H Huey Helicopter Scam
Philippine Air Force Huey Helicopters

Senior defense officials of the Philippine Air Force have been accused of plunder over a P1.2 billion (US $25 million) chopper deal in 2013.

An employee of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Rhodora Alvarez filed a complaint against Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and several other military officials of violating the Government Procurement Reform Act and Revised AFP Modernization Program, Philstar reported Thursday.

Gazmin and others are accused of alleged irregularities regarding a contract for the supply of 21 UH-1H or Huey helicopters for the AFP. Alvarez has urged the ombudsman to investigate Gazmin and other respondents for the offence.

The other respondents in her complaint are Undersecretary Fernando Manalo who chairs the bids and awards committee; Assistant Secretary Patrick Velez, BAC vice chairman; and Director Nebuchadnezzar Alejandro, Lt. General Gregorio Macapagal of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Col. Joselito Reyes and lawyer Angelito Castillo, members.

Also charged were Technical Working Group members headed by Brig. General Conrado Parra; members of the Contract Termination and Review Committee (CTRC), the Post Qualification Team (PQT), the Defense Acquisition Office (DAO), Robert Rice Jr. as president of Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (RASI), and Michael O’Reilly as president of Eagle Copters Ltd.

The plunder complaint stemmed from the purchase contract made by the Department of National Defense (DND) with Rice Aircraft Services and Eagle Copters in 2013 for 21 UH-1D helicopters, including spare parts.

Under the contract, the suppliers must deliver all 21 helicopters to the AFP within 180 days until Sept. 21, 2014. The contractor was able to deliver only 10 units by the contract’s deadline.

Of the 10 units, the AFP only accepted two while the others had defective engines and insufficient spare parts and accessories.

The Philippine Air Force was supposed to acquire the 21 helicopters as part of the P1.2-billion deal.

However, the DND terminated the contract for failure to deliver the units on time. After the termination of contract, reports also had it that aircraft supplied by RASI were “defective.”

The procurement was also hounded by allegations of corruption, prompting the Senate to investigate the allegedly “supplier-friendly” deal. During the Senate investigation, Alvarez claimed the DND intended to favor RASI in exchange for a seven-percent commission or kickback.

DND spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez however dubbed the accusations of Alvarez during the Senate inquiry as “figments of her imagination.”

The DND said the bidding for the acquisition of 21 refurbished combat helicopters was transparent and aboveboard.

Gazmin himself has ridden the two different helicopters and gave assurance the aircraft delivered were all operational and functional. He also brushed aside allegations that there was a 15-percent kickback in the helicopter deal.

“That’s good so that we will know the truth,” Gazmin said yesterday in reaction to the filing of plunder charges. Galvez, for his part, said the DND has yet to receive a copy of the complaint.

“Nonetheless, we welcome the development as it provides an opportunity for the secretary and the DND to disprove Rhodora Alvarez’s allegations and reiterate the facts we have presented in the Senate hearing. In fact, in the spirit of transparency, in August 2015 the investigation report of the DND, along with all the records, was already submitted to the Department of Justice, the ombudsman, the Senate and Congress,” Galvez said.

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