‘AFP modernization plan in tatters’
The Armed Forces of the Philippines modernization program is in tatters because President Aquino has not signed the national defense strategy plan two years after it was finalized.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, vice chair of the House committee on national defense and security, said this was the reason military purchases and deployments had become erratic or wishy-washy, where a single official could amend strategy based solely on perception and through deliberations.
Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, in a phone interview, said the House committee will conduct a “sunset” review of the first phase of the AFP Modernization Program, which spans three Presidents.
Biazon said he would summon Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and newly appointed AFP Chief of Staff Hernando Iriberri to a committee hearing on July 29 to shed light on how the military had so far implemented the modernization program in the Aquino administration.
Among the topics to be discussed is the Department of National Defense’s probe of the P1.2-billion purchase of overpriced and defective helicopters and the suspension of the P6.5-billion purchase of a shore-based missile system finalized with the Israeli government two years ago in favor of purchasing helmets, body armor, night vision goggles and radio equipment for the same amount.
In a phone interview, Alejano said that military purchases should never be done on a whim as the acquisition of billions of pesos in arms and gear should involve long deliberate studies on how the hardware would fit in the military defense strategy.
“There is virtually no long-term planning. A defense strategy developed over two years can just be replaced in a few months by one individual mainly because the defense strategy has not yet been signed by the President,” said Alejano. “This is not just about the list of weapons, this is also about the rationality of buying the weapons.”
Alejano cited the recent decision of Gazmin and Iriberri to suspend the Israel missile deal for helmets as a reflection of the AFP’s moody acquisition behavior.
Alejano said the purchase of the equipment was questionable not only because it was approved less than two months after it was proposed by Iriberri and a few days before his predecessor, Gregorio Catapang, retired.
“Why are we buying this much equipment in one big package when this should be delivered in tranches? These equipment have expiry dates and it would be reckless to have a huge number of equipment expiring at the same time,” he said.
In the case of the SBMS purchase, a military source said the missile deal was not a priority because it was a government-to-government deal unlike the battlefield gear purchases, which would involve brokers and commissions.
Former National Security Adviser and Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez said Irriberri violated protocol laid out in the AFP Modernization Act by interfering in the purchase of the Israeli missiles which was under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Air Force.
When he recommended that the missiles be replaced with helmets and body armor, Iriberri was the Army commander.
“It is really questionable why it was General Iriberri as then Army chief who reportedly recommended the scrapping of the Shore Based Missile System, and not the Air Force chief who should be in charge of missile defense systems under RA 7898, the original AFP Modernization Act of 1995,” said Golez in an e-mail message to the Inquirer.
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