MANILA -- The Department of National Defense (DND) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Tuesday categorically denied allegations that Malacañang is meddling in the procurement of military equipment.
The allegations were raised by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV during the Senate hearing of the proposed 2019 budget of the DND and its attached agencies.
Trillanes said there are concerns that some military procurements were against the wishes of the major military services.
“Bypassed yung kanilang (of their) wish list or shopping list. There is a wish list pero iba ang binibili (but bought a different equipment), and these equipment are coming directly from Malacañang and you are being bypassed. Kaya nabibili ito (That's why they were bought) against you wishes,” the opposition senator said.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana categorically belied the allegation, stressing that President Rodrigo Duterte has always urged them to buy what they needed.
“That (meddling) did not happen during my time. The Palace never dictated on us. In fact, the President has always reminded us to buy what the user wants. Laging sinasabi sa atin yan (We are always reminded of that), so that’s what we are doing,” he told the Subcommittee “E” of the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Senator Panfilo Lacson.
Trillanes said he received reports that there are equipment in the pipeline that two major services have not requested.
However, the heads of the three major military services – Philippine Air Force (PAF), Philippine Army (PA) and Philippine Navy (PN) – said the procurement process within the military establishment precludes any intervention from higher authority.
“For the Airforce, we have no known projects that has been imposed upon us. It is always the product of a process through our senior leadership. So we are getting what we need and what we want,”PAF commanding general Lt. Gen. Galileo Gerard Kintanar Jr. said.
Meanwhile, Major Gen. Robert Arevalo, the vice commander of the Philippine Army, said a stringent process is being followed within Army headquarters.
“Once it goes up to the DND, there is also a procedure and apparently the proceedings are very transparent. Whatever our request or wish, it is decided upon by the august body within the senior leaders’ roundtable discussion,” Arevalo said.
For the Philippine Navy, Vice Admiral Robert Empedrad said the requirements of the service is decided by a technical working group created by the Navy itself.
“This is submitted to the senior leaders of the AFP as well as the senior leaders of the DND. So there are no influence coming from the higher ups,” Empedrad said.
Lorenzana said he has received such information on the supposed procurement of equipment not on the “wish list” of the major services.
However, the defense secretary pointed to Trillanes as the source of the information.
“We’ve heard that information but I think it also came from you, that there was one guy who is cornering or directing the procurement of certain items,” he told Trillanes.
“I asked around and it’s not true. Nobody is manipulating the procurement at the DND because the procurement there is a collegial decision by me and the service commanders and the senior leaders,” Lorenzana said.
He added that they have what they call as the “senior leaders’ defense position system” that meets twice a month to decide what will be procured.
It is during these meetings that all the products being considered are presented, after which the collegial body will decide what to buy.
“It is not dictated by anybody,” Lorenzana said.
Trillanes maintained that his information came from supposed active officers and there were allegations that an Undersecretary from the DND is involved.
Lorenzana again debunked the claims, saying the minutes of the twice a month senior leaders’ meeting to decide the modernization procurement will prove that this could not have happened.
“We can show you the minutes -- how it is done, we discuss, very passionate discussions sometimes to buy something, and we come to a decision,” he said.
“Nobody comes and goes to the services to force the procurement of certain items that they do not want. That did not happen senator,” Lorenzana said. (PNA)