By Mario Casayuran
Former Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Manual (Mar) A. Roxas II and other officials in the Aquino administration may be called to appear before the Senate to shed light on the questionable purchase of the defective Indian-made Mahindra jeeps worth P1.8 billion.
This was revealed yesterday by Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson, a former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, as he threw his support behind a move of Sen. Grace Poe, chairwoman of the Senate public services committee, to look into this episode.
Poe said Wednesday that she plans to conduct a public hearing on the Mahindra jeep issue a week before President Duterte delivers his State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa building complex in Quezon city on July 23.
Lacson said he kept track of the PNP purchase of the Mahindra jeeps in 2014 after learning that Mahindra had no after-sales service, no track record and ‘’parang mali na sa procurement (the procurement procedures appeared not in order.)
‘’And after a while, after the vehicles were distributed, lumabas na nga katakot-takot na problema, mga reklamo ng pulis in the different areas,’’ he said, adding that most of the jeeps were ‘’deadlined’’ even before one year of use and were abandoned because of lack of spare parts. (Problems surfaced and they piled up.)
‘’Ako, I will second the call of Senator Poe to call for an investigation. After all, P1.8 billion in people’s money was involved here,’’ he said, adding that this incident in the procurement process should not be repeated.
‘’Maibabalik ba natin ang bilyon na nagastos? Kailangan tingnan para di na maulit ulit, pananagutin ang sino dapat managot,’’ he said. (Will the P1.8 billion be recovered? Let us look into this so it would not be repeated. Those guilty must be made to answer for their ‘misdemeanors’).’’
‘’PNP, DILG Secretary dahil siya ang ex-officio chairman ng Napolcom (National Police Commission) na may supervision and control sa PNP. So dapat tingnan ng DBM (Department of Budget and Management),’’ he said, referring to those who should be called to the public inquiry.
The DBM secretary then was Florencio Abad while the PNP chief then was Gen. Alan Purisima who, along with former President Benigno Aquino III, was indicted for the murder by Muslim terrorists of 44 PNP Special Action Force (SAF) policemen in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in 2015.
Lacson said it would be up to the Senate leadership which Senate committee would be assigned to undertake the public hearing.
If it would be referred to his Senate public order committee, Lacson said he would immediately hold public hearings.
Or it could be referred to the Senate Blue Ribbon committee chaired by Sen. Richard J. Gordon.
But Poe, in a radio interview three days ago, said she expected to schedule her public hearing on the Mahindra case a week before President Duterte’s SONA.
The Senate and the House of Representatives are both in recess.
Because of the defective Mahindras, Lacson said the efficiency of the national police force was affected.
For her part, Poe asked herself why Mahindra was chosen by the PNP although Ford and Toyota offered the same price.
Poe also wanted those to be called to appear before the Senate to answer her question why Mahindra won in the bidding although there were the terms of reference in the procurement process.
She said she would call Purisima to the hearing because the PNP could not favor Mahindra without a favorable stance of or influence from the DILG.
‘’Tapos, makikita natin kung tatanggapin lahat ni General Purisima ang pagkakasala dito o ang pagkakamali o mayroon siyang ituturo na nag-impluyensya sa kanya para aprubahan ito,’’’ she said. (We will see if General Purisima will admit his crime or error or he would point a finger to a person who influenced him into approving the purchase.)
Poe stressed that she wanted to look into the Mahindra deal it being a pressing issue as the PNP has many defective or sidelined vehicles and it needs 1,475 vehicles.