MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine National Police (PNP) revealed on Monday that it has scrapped its plan to purchase P400 million worth of assault rifles amid doubts raised on the transaction that stemmed from the alleged involvement of a ranking official of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
But Deputy Director General Emelito Sarmiento was quick to clarify that the cancellation of the two transactions for assault rifles was not an offshoot of the reported anomalous transaction but some documentary lapses on the part of the winning bidder.
Sarmiento heads the PNP Bids and Awards Committee and concurrent Deputy Chief for Administration of the PNP.
"There was a failure of bidding for the first batch of the assault rifles, the second batch was scrap because we were told that the price is too high," Sarmiento told reporters in an interview.
Sarmiento explained that the procurement of the assault rifles is intended to equip the PNP's elite force, the Special Action Force, in its anti-insurgency operations.
For the Capability Enhancement Program (CEP) in 2011, some P170 million was allocated for the purchase of 1,500 assault rifles, the bidding was won by R. Espineli.
"There was a failure of bidding due to some documentary problems. As a result, the lone bidder and subsequent winner was post-disqualified," said Sarmiento.
The bidding, he said, was done last month.
The disqualification of R. Espineli also resulted in the scrapping of the procurement of 1,800 more assault rifles that was funded with some P213 million under the Capability Enhancement Program of the PNP for this year.
Sarmiento also admitted that part of the cancellation of the planned purchase of second batch of assault rifles also came after President Aquino himself sought to stop the plan as the price was high based on his own research.
"It (The President's observation) was relayed through the DILG (then headed by the late Jesse Robredo)," said Sarmiento.
As such, Sarmiento said allegations of anomaly for the planned purchase of assault rifles are impossible since there was no transaction that occurred in the first place.
Some quarters have linked Undersecretary Rico Puno to the alleged anomalous transaction.
Sarmiento also took the opportunity to hit back at party-list Rep. Angelo Palmones who claimed that there was already a delivery of some 28,000 9mm pistols although the contract has yet to be signed.
"I think that's not possible because there are no documents for the importation of the firearms," said Sarmiento.
He explained that there was something wrong with Palmones' allegation since no country could easily import more than $1 million worth of guns without the approval of the US Congress.