PNP nears P1-B deal to buy 60,000 gunsBy Marlon Ramos, Gil C. Cabacungan Nancy C. Carvajal
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Philippine National Police is about to conclude a P1-billion contract for the purchase of some 60,000 service pistols in what it calls the “most transparent” procurement process in years. But a losing bidder claims the deal is tainted with anomalies.
“You can say that it’s almost (a done deal),” the head of the PNP bids and awards committee, Deputy Director General Emelito Sarmiento, told reporters on the sidelines of the 18th National Crime Prevention Week celebration at Camp Crame on September 4.
In Vladivostok, Russia, where he attended the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, President Benigno Aquino said the critics of the Glock handguns deal did not know what they were talking about when they claimed that the pistols could overheat.
“The detractors said we would need an electric fan to cool the gun because it was so hot after firing 5,000 rounds in one day. But any gun you fire that much in a short period will heat up,” said the President, a gun enthusiast.
“The pistols met all the criteria. It’s the standard pistol for over 60 percent of the law enforcement in America as well as other countries. Our goal is to have one standard not five,” Mr. Aquino said.
The procurement of firearms is part of the PNP Capability Enhancement Program whose goal is to provide every police officer with his or her own handgun.
One of the bidders said over the weekend that Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno had fast-tracked the firearms contract before newly appointed Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas could assume office and before Puno could be removed from his post.
Because he had supervisory powers over the PNP, Bureau of Fire Protection and Bureau of Jail and Management, Puno had authority over the award of contracts for the modernization projects of these agencies. (The President announced the relief of Puno Sunday.)
Sarmiento said PNP Director General Nicanor Bartolome had signed the notice of award to Glock Asia Pacific and its local partner, Trust Trade, for the contract.
“After (Bartolome) signed the notice of award, we will have a contract signing and the issuance of a notice to proceed. The whole process will be concluded soon,” he said.
Save for some “ministerial” aspects of the contract, Sarmiento said the joint venture between Trust Trade and Glock Asia Pacific, and the PNP had submitted all the needed documents.
“But we have to resolve all motions for reconsideration (filed by the losing bidders), although I think there’s nothing more they can do,” he said.
Sarmiento said Bartolome approved the notice of award after the winning bidder’s Glock 17 Generation 4 9mm pistols passed the stringent nine-step test set by the PNP.
The PNP considered Trust Trade’s offer after it disqualified the original winning bidder, R. Espenille, and partner Israel Weapons Industry, for their failure to comply with the documentary requirements.
Espenille presented the lowest bid to supply the PNP with Jericho handguns for P974 million, which would have saved the government P216 million.
Trust Trade and Glock Asia Pacific submitted the second lowest bid of P997 million for the purchase of 59,904 Glock 9mm pistols.
Chief Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr., PNP spokesperson, earlier claimed that the bidding process for the gun purchase was the most transparent that the police organization conducted in recent years.
‘Model’ for future bidding
Cerbo said the savings that the PNP would generate from the gun deal would be used to procure police vehicles and communications equipment to improve its ground mobility and capability.
“In fact, we will make this a model for our future bidding projects,” Cerbo said, shrugging off allegations that the PNP broke some of its own bidding rules to favor Trust Trade and its foreign partner.
But the awarding of the contract was far from transparent, according to Peter Go Cheng, sales manager of Kolonwel Trading.
Cheng said the deal had been given to the group of Jocelyn Jose of Trust Trade and Glock Asia Pacific on August 31, the same day Mr. Aquino announced the appointment of Roxas to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
“Unknown to us then, in the interim following the untimely demise of Secretary Jesse Robredo and before you could assume office as secretary of the DILG, PNP Director General Nicanor Bartolome issued an award of contract,” Cheng said in a letter to Roxas.
He said the notice was also received on the same day by Jose, director for marketing and operations of Trust Trade, which holds office at Unit 22 Facilities Centre, Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong City.
Bartolome signed the notice of award in his capacity as PNP chief and purchaser of the firearms.
“The suspicious timing of the issuance aside, the notice of award itself tends to render as fait accompli the anomalous transaction by the time you assume office,” Cheng said in the letter.
He said that Roxas, on the same day of his appointment as DILG head, declared that Puno would be transferred and removed from his post as undersecretary for peace and order.
Cheng said he had requested a review of how the bidding was conducted “in the interest of transparency and good governance.”
“We refer to the serious anomalies attendant to the procurement by the PNP of 56,904 units 9mm pistols, with an approved budget of P1.19 billion. Anomaly is detailed in the attached brief,” he told Roxas.
“For the sake of the PNP and the country, we request that you have this matter thoroughly investigated. We likewise respectfully request as prudence and caution dictate, the award or the implementation of the contract be made to wait the result of the investigation,” Cheng said.
Documents obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer showed that six groups initially expressed interest in the contract.
But only four managed to join the bidding on June 28. The two other groups were not allowed to participate for failure to submit sample firearms to the PNP bids and awards committee (BAC).
The bidding, conducted in the main conference room of PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City, was supervised by Sarmiento.
The four bidders were:
- Joint venture of R. Espenille and Israel Weapons Industry (P974 million for its Jericho 941 PL pistols).
- Joint venture of Trust Trade and Glock Asia Pacific Ltd. (P997 million for its Glock 17 Gen 4 pistols).
- Joint venture of Countermeasures Equipages and Security Technologies Inc., Kolonwel Trading and Ceska Zbrojovka A.S. (P1.064 billion for its CZ 75 P-07 pistols).
- Armscor (P1.197 billion for its Tanfoglio pistols)
Based on the bids data sheet, apart from submitting the lowest offer, the winning bidder should have their sample guns tested for endurance and durability.
The samples should pass the 20,000-round endurance test, and should not jam or conk out. These should also pass technical inspection for accuracy and easy maintenance.
In case a pistol failed the endurance test, the samples of the second lowest bidder would be tested under the same conditions. During the test, 5,000 rounds would be fired per day by several policemen.
But even before the actual endurance test, the BAC disqualified R. Espenille and Israel Weapons Industry for their failure to comply with documentary requirements.
It was shown to have failed to provide an English translation of its foreign documents, which should be duly authenticated by the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv.
The documents obtained by the Inquirer showed that before the public bidding, a prebid conference was conducted on June 7, in which the seven participants were required to purchase the bids data sheet for P275,000. However, no official receipts were given to the four bidders.
Trust Trade and Glock Asia Pacific also allegedly failed to submit a copy of a supply contract attesting to any joint venture agreement.
The Inquirer source claimed that during the testing of the firearms provided by Glock on July 19, the following observations were made:
- Two representatives of Trust Trade were allowed entry into the restricted test area and were permitted to briefly handle and test fire the guns.
- The firing test was interrupted every 150 rounds, a drastic departure from the previous test practice of test firing a gun for 500 rounds before taking a pause to clean the gun.
- The representative of Trust Trade interrupted the test firing to slow down the frequency of firing.
In his State of the Nation Address in July, the President mentioned that a winning bidder had emerged even before all the tests could be completed.