Whistleblower files plunder complaint vs DND execs over P1.2B helicopter deal
MANILA — The whistleblower for a supposedly anomalous P1.2 billion helicopter contract entered into by the military with a United States-based firm has decided to bring to court her exposé.
On Wednesday, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) employee Rhodora Alvarez accused before the Office of the Ombudsman more than 30 defense and military officials—including Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin—of plunder, malversation of funds and graft for the allegedly anomalous acquisition of UH-1 helicopters from Rice Aircraft Services Inc. (Rasi) and Eagle Copters Ltd.
She specifically filed complaints for malversation of public funds under the Revised Penal Code; violations of the Anti-Plunder Act, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the Government Procurement Act, and the Republic Act Establishing the Revised Armed Forces of the Philippines Modernization Program; and an administrative complaint for gross dishonesty.
Alvarez surfaced last year in a Senate hearing on the controversy. Alvarez, since meeting a Vietnamese representative for RASI in 2012, had ended up being an informal local representative for the United States-based firm.
Alvarez’s 46-page plunder complaint included as respondents members of the DND Bids and Awards Committee headed by Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo, members of the technical working group for the project headed by Brig. Gen. Conrado Parra, Rasi president Robert Rice Jr. and Eagle Copters president Michael O’Reilly.
“[The respondent] public officials committed gross dishonesty by rigging the procurement in favour of the joint venture of Rasi and Eagle which caused serious damage and grave prejudice to the government,” Alvarez said, in her complaint. “Said dishonesty was committed several times and in various occasions in the different stages of the procurement proceedings,” she said.
Alvarez accused the military officials of “acceding” to accept 21 refurbished UH-1 helicopters—instead of the original contract for “six refurbished [helicopters], seven for operationalisations, and eight for upgrades”—simply to accommodate RASI.
Among Alvarez’s most serious accusations detailed in the complaint was that in 2013, Manalo and Rice allegedly discussed a 7 percent commission for the helicopter contract for Gazmin, and a 5 percent commission for himself, Velez and officials “down the line.”
She said that the men agreed later on that the commissions would be delivered to the brother of Parra, who was in the United States and working with Rice’s friend at the time.
Alvarez, in her complaint, also accused the officials of violating the government procurement act and the AFP Modernization Program.
“The contract involving the acquisition of the 21 UH-1H refurbished helicopters was sourced out to another budget already allotted by law to certain government projects,” Alvarez said.
Alvarez also alleged that RASI had submitted “forged documents.”
“I decided to report the herein anomalous transactions to the Senate because I felt bad for the SAF 44 who were mercilessly killed in the so-called Mamasapano incident and who could have been saved if only the responsible officials did their duties. It has been my constant position that these UH-1D helicopters were defective as the same were not compliant with project’s specifications provided by the government to warrant its safety during combat operation,” Alvarez said.
“True enough, one of the helicopters delivered crashed on Nov. 7, 2015….in Sarangani province. Sadly, respondent and his cohorts rigged the procurement process despite knowing full well of its defectiveness to the prejudice of the government,” Alvarez said.
In a statement sent to the media on Wednesday evening, DND spokesperson Peter Paul Galvez said while they have not yet received a copy of Alvarez’ complaint, “we welcome the development as it provides an opportunity for the Secretary and the DND to disprove [her] allegations, and reiterate the facts we have presented in the Senate hearing.”
Last year, Manalo and Parra filed libel complaints against Alvarez with the Quezon City prosecutor’s office.
During the Senate hearings, Rice had accused Alvarez of trying to turn the table on them after he refused her supposed “extortion” demands. SFM
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