RUSSKY ISLAND, Vladivostok, Russia — President Benigno Aquino III said he himself discovered on the Internet the overprice in the purchase of M4 assault rifles by the Philippine National Police and called for an inquiry, but that Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno was not under investigation.
“I searched Google and I discovered there were plenty of rifles selling below $1,000. So I asked them why was $1,000 converted to P80,000? And that started the investigation,” the President said in a news briefing on Saturday night.
He referred to what he said was his directive to the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo to conduct an inquiry into the deal.
Aquino said he was not satisfied with the rifle tender, which started with at least seven bidders expressing interest and the PNP bidding committee ending up with only one qualified buyer with a bloated price.
The President said the PNP had set the indicative price for the M4 Bushmaster rifles at P80,000 each, or roughly $2,000, which was close to half the P150,000 purchase price in the previous administration.
“That was the price of the M4 two years ago. But if you search the Internet now, you can get it for as little as $800 plus each. That’s roughly P32,000 each which is very far off from the P80,000. And the rifle itself (AK Type) was not what they (Special Action Force) told me they wanted,” he said.
The PNP bid committee switched the specifications in the bidding from M4 to AK.
Aquino also noted that a foreign supplier had offered two years ago to set up a factory here to produce the rifle at P40,000 each.
“So I asked where is the one who offered to sell at P40,000? Why is the one with the P80,000 offer left in the bidding? When it did not meet what you wanted, why did you continue to accept its offer? So I instructed Secretary Robredo to look into this,” he said.
“I wanted to ask the technical (bidding) group a simple question: Why didn’t anyone check the Internet? If you can buy one piece at that price, I’m sure you will get discount if you buy a hundred or a thousand pieces. That was something that Secretary Robredo was also checking up on and basically, I didn’t like the answers because it only raised more questions,” he added.
“The worst thing about it is that we ordered for hamburger and we got a hotdog sandwich.”
The President said that he immediately ordered a suspension of the bidding prices but “somehow, some portion reached the post-evaluation process.”
“Why were tests made when there was a stop order? All of those involved have been subject to an investigation and the uniformed personnel were placed on floating status,” he said.
When asked if Undersecretary Puno was part of those being probed, the President said only the process was under scrutiny.