Saturday, December 16, 2017
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Breaktime

Turkish daylight (Part II)

According to legitimate news reports—and not “fake news” —the Commission on Audit suspended the P1-billion contract of the military for night fighting equipment.

Just exactly how our soldiers, without the equipment, could cope with nighttime urban warfare that they have been waging in Marawi City, for instance, only the military could answer.

Aside from the COA suspension, however, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier investigated the deal, because some bright boys in the military reportedly rigged the bidding.

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The deal was actually worth P1.116 billion, covering 4,500 night-vision monoculars (NVMs), 4,500 infrared aiming devices, and 500 laser-zeroing gadgets.

Early in his term, the motorbiking Duterte Harley shifted his defense policy to focus military spending on supplies such as proper combat equipment for soldiers, shunning what he called expensive but “useless” jet fighters.

At the same time, Duterte Harley ordered the Department of National Defense to investigate past contracts—i.e. those under the Aquino (Part II) administration. (Breaktime, “Turkish daylight,” May 4, 2017). And now the COA just held up the deal.

From what I gathered, the COA directed its order not only to the DND bids and awards committee, or BAC, but also to the supposed “winner” in the bidding, a firm from Ankara, Turkey called Aselsan Elektronik Sanayi Ve Ticaret.

COA threatened both of them with “punitive sanctions.”

As reported last month, it seemed the BAC made the bidding rules as sweet as Turkish delight, allegedly to benefit Aselsan. They specified that the “image intensifier tube” (IIT) in the night goggles, for instance, must have a “maximum” diameter of 0.85 mm, against which some potential bidders protested, since it could exclude US manufacturers.

The US government allowed only IIT exports with a “minimum” diameter of 0.85 mm, meaning, US makers could export anything above 0.85 mm diameter, which of course the brilliant BAC rule would not accept.

As we said, only a handful of companies made IITs, and the biggest was US-based Harris Corp., which the BAC rule effectively eliminated.

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Now, in a letter to the Inquirer, reacting to our column last month, Philippine Army public affairs chief Lt. Col. Ray Tiongson pointed out that the BAC actually pre-qualified two American firms—Nightline and American Technologies.

There you go—strictly speaking, the BAC rule did not bar US companies, right?

It was just that, from what I gathered, the biggest manufacturer of that equipment in the world, the most dominant company called Harris Corp. based in Virginia, USA, pleaded with the BAC to allow a slight modification of the rule to include 1.00-mm tubes.

No dice, according to the BAC.

But then the “winning bidder,” Turkish firm Aselsan, miraculously was able to offer the same Harris-made ITTs with the exact diameter of 0.85mm with zero margin of error, which the very same Harris said could not be done.

Question: How did Aselsan do it?

For one, based on the BAC rules, Aselsan must submit a “certification” from the manufacturer that the ITT specs followed the BAC rules, and based on our info, such a certification remained a mystery to the DND higher-ups.

Aselsan could not possibly have secured such a certification from the US company Harris. For one, it was Harris that protested the quite restrictive specification of the BAC.

In his letter to the editor of the Inquirer, Philippine Army spokesman Tiongson indicated that I got it all wrong.

Except that, well, he could not provide the newspaper with a copy of the certification due to this thing called “confidentiality clause” in the document.

That was why he could not show us a verifiable genuine copy of the Harris certification that Aselsan supposed submitted to the BAC.

Now, from what I gathered, the certification was part of what should be “transparent” bidding process, the very same procurement using P1.1 billion of our tax money.

And it was “confidential?’

I can hardly wait for the result of the COA investigation.

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TAGS: Commission on Audit, Marawi City, night fighting equipment, P1-billion contract, Secretary Delfin Lorenzana
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