Austrian firetrucks arrive
What “anomalous” deal?
The controversial firetrucks contract with an Austrian firm had pushed through, after all, as 14 Rosenbauer firetrucks arrived in Batangas last week, acting Interior Secretary Catalino Cuy confirmed on Sunday.
Cuy said the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) would inspect the firetrucks at the Batangas City port before deployment to urban areas that needed them the most.
“They are still in Batangas because the BFP will inspect them. The bureau has also scheduled their distribution,” Cuy said in an interview.
“The priority is highly urbanized areas. This is the second phase, so more will be coming,” he said.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) had acquired an initial batch of Rosenbauer firetrucks under former Interior Secretary Mar Roxas in 2013 but this was questioned in the Supreme Court due to alleged overpricing.
In January, former Interior Secretary Ismael Sueno went to Austria to acquire another batch of 76 firetrucks.
Critics claimed that Sueno ignored a DILG legal opinion advising prudence in paying for the first batch of firetrucks under Roxas since there was a pending case in the high court.
President Duterte questioned Sueno about the DILG legal opinion but the latter claimed he had not seen it. Mr. Duterte then fired Sueno.
Cuy, however, said they reviewed the deal and determined “everything was above board.”
“So it will proceed unless there is a TRO (temporary restraining order) from the Supreme Court,” Cuy said.
“The deal was reviewed by many agencies,” he added.
The Department of Finance, the Department of Justice, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the National Economic Development Authority had approved the deal.
But lawyer Leo Romero, who had petitioned the Supreme Court to stop the deal, earlier insisted that President Duterte fired Sueno precisely due to the anomalies attending the purchases.
In a five-page letter dated April 17, Romero reminded Cuy that it was “public knowledge” that Sueno was fired “upon the ‘first whiff’ of graft and corruption in the questioned trip to Austria for meetings and negotiations with the officials of Rosenbauer.”
He said Bureau of Fire Protection chief Bobby Baruelo issued an order in March directing the BFP Inspection and Acceptance Committee to proceed with the acquisition despite the controversy.
Baruelo’s order was “bereft of any legal and factual basis” and should not be followed, Romero said.
He said the Legal and Legislative Liaison Service of the DILG had released a legal opinion on Oct. 26, 2016, advising Sueno to suspend the procurement project.
Romero said the Solicitor General had also informed the Supreme Court that it was withdrawing its services as counsel of the BFP and the DILG after it found their “position [on the case] irreconcilable.”
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