NYT report: Escudero defends palace
ONGOING investigations into alleged irregularities in the purchase of helicopters and armored personnel carriers do not mean that the government of President Benigno Aquino III is corrupt, Senator Francis Escudero said Wednesday.
“I’m not in a position to say that this, in general, is the [state of Aquino’s] government,” Escudro said.
The senator, who is running next year for vice president in opposition to the ruling Liberal Party, was reacting to a New York Times report that said the US government turned down a Philippine request for $300 million in military aid because it was worried about official corruption under the Aquino administration.
The Senate Blue Ribbon committee headed by Senator Teofisto Guingona III is investigating the P1.25-billion chopper deal signed by the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
In her sworn statement, whistleblower Rhodora Alvarez testified that Rice Aircraft Services, in a joint venture with Eagle Copters Ltd., was awarded a negotiated contract after having been consistently disqualified in a series of government biddings for the purchase of 21 refurbished combat helicopters for the AFP.
Rice Aircraft Services eventually bagged the negotiated contract worth P1.25 billion in December 2013 for the Huey UH-1 choppers.
Escudero said if the New York Times story were true, the Philippine has enough basis and history to better treatment from the United States as an ally.
“The United States is not giving us a fair and equal treatment,” he said, adding that Washington sometimes treats its new allies in other parts of the world much better.
Retired and active military officers voiced their frustration Wednesday over the US rebuff.
“It’s a great security concern for the Philippines particularly in the…disputed West Philippine Sea and while the US assured us of its assistance relating to the military upgrade, it has now rejected the government’s request,” a retired military official who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
Retired Lt. Gen. Edilberto Adan, president of the Association of Generals and Flag Officers, said military officials should explain “the sudden shift of the US position.”
Armed Force chief Gen. Hernando Irreberi declined to comment, however.
“It’s the US that should answer or react on this matter,” Irreberi said.
Adan also denied a Palace claim that the AGFO has changed its opposition on the Bangsamoro Basic Law that President Aquino supports.
The President had invited members of the association to the Palace on Monday, but the former military officers were not swayed, Adan said.
“We have an exchange of views during the meeting with Aquino explaining the background and the progress that brought the BBL, saying we must trust the MILF [the Moro Islamic Liberation Front],” Adan said.
But in its manifesto, AFGO urges caution in dealing with the MILF.
“We never agreed to any changes to what we had voiced out in the manifesto,” Adan said.
Retired Gen. Jose Lapus, who was also present in the meeting, said Aquino made no recommendation for AGFO to change it position.
“We maintained our position,” Lapuz said.