MANILA, Philippines --- The House of Representatives will not pursue its investigation of the P1-billion deal involving the purchase of 60,000 handguns for the Philippine National Police (PNP).
The supposedly questionable contract is one of the controversies being linked to former Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Undersecretary Rico Puno.
Agham party-list Rep. Angelo Palmones said yesterday the House Committee on Public Order and Safety of Cebu Rep. Pablo John Garcia has decided not to look into the issue because the Senate has already conducted an "exhaustive" inquiry.
"I was asked by Rep. Garcia if I have other questions apart from those that were raised during the Senate hearing. We agreed that the Senate was able to discuss the issue thoroughly. All questions were already raised so we decided not to pursue the investigation," Palmones said in a phone interview.
Palmones, along with Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop filed House Resolution 2598, had called on the Garcia committee to conduct an inquiry on the procurement of the pistols "for purposes of good governance, transparency and accountability."
They said the bidding process for the purchase was not completed, and that some bidders have not complied with eligibility requirements and or submitted the necessary documents to qualify for the bidding.
Palmones said they were "satisfied" with the Senate inquiry.
"Anyway, if there are complaints from the losing bidders, they can go to courts," he said.
A day before the Senate investigation, the PNP assured that the deal is "aboveboard." It also cleared Puno of involvement in the purchase.
Deputy Director General Emelito Sarmiento, deputy chief for operations and Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) chairman, said the procurement of the 9mm Glock pistols is consistent with bidding procedures under the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 9184.
He even said Puno was not in any way involved in the procurement of the pistols, which are expected to be delivered five months after PNP Director General Nicanor Bartolome signs the contract on or before Sept. 25.
Sarmiento said they started the "video-taped" BAC proceedings last March 16, and clarified that the procurement of 60,000 pistols was not related to the 28,000 pistols which arrived in the Manila South Harbor on Sept. 4.
The first delivery of 12,000 guns will start in 150 days upon the issuance of notice and will be completed after 570 days.
Sarmiento proposed that Congress enact a law imposing penalties on losing bidders who try to mess up government deals.
Last Friday, Puno went before the Senate committee headed by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago to deny he had used his influence to see to it that the contract for the pistols went to certain bidders.
Santiago had summoned several other Cabinet members to the hearing, but only Puno and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Nicanor Bartolome showed up.
Among those who snubbed the hearing were Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
The senator took the absence of the other Cabinet officials as an affront and said she and President Benigno S. Aquino III have ceased to be "friends."
Yesterday, Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the President did not take Santiago's remarks personally.
"We have a lot of lawmakers who are vocal in their opinions," Valte said. "It doesn't mean it's a personal attack on the President."
Valte said Santiago must be kidding when she said she's no longer friends with Malacanang.
Valte also assured Santiago that the Palace continues to look for ways to eliminate "jueteng."
"It cannot be an isolated approach. It has to be a holistic approach to it," she said.
The President wants a comprehensive anti-jueteng plan, she added. (Additional report from Madel R. Sabater)