A BUREAU of Internal Revenue examiner filed a plunder complaint Wednesday against Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin before the Office of the Ombudsman over a “rotten” P1.26-billion helicopter deal in 2013.
The complainant, Rhodora Alvarez, also implicated other officials of the Defense department and the Armed Forces of the Philippines for “willfully, deliberately and feloniously” conspiring to carry out the plunder.
Alavarez alleged that Gazmin gave preferential treatment to the joint venture of Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and Eagle Copters for the procurement of Huey helicopters, including spare parts three years ago.
A project manager for Rice, however, had earlier alleged that it was Alvarez, their former country representative, that had demanded a 15-percent commission for negotiating the helicopter deal and threatened their local employees with tax evasion charges if they reported to work.
Gazmin denied Alvarez’s allegations. “It is good that we will know the truth,” he said upon learning of the suit.
The Defense department said it had not yet received a copy of Alvarez’s complaint.
“Nonetheless, we welcome the development as it provides an opportunity for the secretary and the DND to disprove Rhodora Alvarez’s allegations and reiterate the facts we have presented in the Senate hearing,” it said in a statement.
In her complaint, Alvarez described the sale as a “rotten” deal, saying it involved the purchase of helicopter scraps from Germany, shipping them to the United States for reconstruction and refurbishing, and eventually sending them over to Philippines for use by the Air Force.
Of the 21 choppers, seven were delivered to Manila, but only one was flying, she said.
The choppers were UH-1D, 1968 models similar to the US UH-1H or the Huey, but the instructions for their use were written in German, she added.
Because of this, Air Force pilots had to study German to understand the instructions before flying the choppers, she said.
Alvarez alleged that after awarding the contract, Gazmin signed and approved amendments to the agreement sought by the joint venture of Rice Aircraft Services Inc. and Eagle Copters.
She said Gazmin conspired with the other government officials to give the company special treatment.
Under the law, amendments can only be done during the pre-bid conference, not after a contract has been awarded, she said.
She also said that Commission on Audit rules state that the government is allowed to accept second-hand equipment only if no procurement is involved, Alvarez added.
In 2015, Alvarez appeared before a Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing, and presented her affidavit, saying that a 7-percent kickback would go to Gazmin and a 5-percent cut would go to the DND and AFP officials.
At the Senate hearing on Tuesday, the project manager of Rice Aircraft Services Inc., Matthew Rice, said it was Alvarez—who used to be the company’s country representative—who demanded a 15-percent commission from the deal.
In a presentation, he showed several e-mail messages and billings from Alvarez, who allegedly demanded a commission, which she later cut to three percent.
Rice said Alvarez also demanded a reimbursement for $278,674 that she supposedly spent.
“As you can see , here are some of the e-mails. ‘Where’s my money? Where is it? Pay, pay, pay. Pay your obligations, pay my commissions…’” he said, reading the e-mail messages that he said came from Alvarez.
Rice said Alvarez also threatened the Filipino crew of the company with tax evasion charges if they reported for work.
“So none of them would work because Ms. Alvarez wanted her money, which we would not send her,” he said.
He said this was the reason why there was a delay in the delivery of the helicopters.
Rasi president Robert Rice Jr. said they became suspicious of Alvarez when they saw on her Facebook account that she was handing out money during Christmas.
“She has two brand new vehicles, a brand new van and a brand new car in addition to the many vacations she’s taking,” he said.
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.