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MANILA - Notwithstanding the controversy, the Philippine National Police (PNP) will still pursue its plan to purchase over 3,000 assault rifles to address its shortage of long firearms.
PNP Logistics Director Arnulfo Perez said that the scuttled bidding last August will be rescheduled within the year. The allotted budget for the 3,300 units of long firearms is close to P400 million.
Last August, the PNP declared a failure to bid for the 1,500 pieces of M4 assault rifles after its lone bidder, R. Espineli, failed to submit the required documents in the bidding process. The budget for the 1,500 firearms was P178 million. Another bidding for 1,800 pieces worth P213 million was suspended after President Benigno Aquino III himself discovered the overprice.
At this time, Perez said the PNP is conducting a study to determine the lowest price available for the rifles.
The PNP has set the unit price for the rifles at around P118,000. Espineli entered a winning bid of P89,000. Perez said the PNP is currently studying the price - if it could be lowered further.
June 25 call
Aquino earlier revealed that he discovered that the rifles were overpriced. Through a search on the Internet, he discovered that a rifle can cost as low as $1,000 to $1,200. The PNP confirmed that they it received a call from the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo to halt the bidding for the rifles.
Senior Supt. Edwin Roque, head of the secretariat of the Technical Working Group (TWG), disclosed that he received a call from Robredo at around June 25 directing him to suspend the bidding for the rifles.
"Tumawag si former Sec. Robredo sa akin mga around 1 p.m. ng June 25. Ang sabi nya suspend muna natin yung procurement ng assault rifle kase kelangan i-review ang price dahil may observation sa Internet na yung unit price ng ay nasa $1,000 to $1,200. Ganun po lang ka-simple ang kanyang instructions," Roque said.
He said Robredo did not tell him that it was the President who discovered a lower price for the firearms.
The PNP said the call came just days before R. Espineli was disqualified so it was "moot and academic," said Deputy Director General Emelito Sarmiento, chairman of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC). The PNP, however, did suspend the procurement for 1,800 units of rifles.
Sarmiento said his office would reschedule another bidding within the year or else the budget for the Capability Enhance Program (CEP) for 2011 will have expired by the end of the year.
There is a need to procure the rifles to address the long firearm shortage of the PNP, Perez said.
"Talagang may shortage tayo dun kase napakamahal po ng presyo nyan. Inuna natin itong pistol muna then we will deal with completing the requirements for the long firearms," he said.
The elite units of the PNP, the Special Action Force, Public Safety Battalion, and mobile forces in the municipal stations are the priority for the long firearms.
The PNP has a 34-percent shortage of its long firearms.