POSTSCRIPT / January 8, 2012 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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PNP wants cheapest, or most reliable, gun?

GUN FAILURE: Back in training camp they drilled into our heads that we were married to our rifle, that our lives depended on it. We bought that, and passed on the till-death-do-us-part admonition to those who came after us.

Now if you were a beat policeman, or a SWAT member or an NBI agent caught in a life-and-death situation against armed killers – and your gun suddenly malfunctioned and failed you – goodbye!

This point is being brought up because in the just-concluded bidding of the Philippine National Police for some 12,300 caliber 9 mm pistols, the lowest bidder’s pistol – the Italian-made Tanfoglio – stopped firing thrice in a row as it failed to complete the 20,000-round endurance test.

The abject lesson is: The lowest bid is not always the best.

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BACK TO ZERO: That is not the only point. The Department of the Interior and Local Government, sitting on top of the PNP, reportedly said that the since the budget year ended Dec. 31 with almost P300 million for the purchase still not obligated, the money will go back to the treasury.

In effect, the bidding for 12,300 pistols, the biggest single procurement in PNP history, has been aborted and a new one will be scheduled, no longer by the PNP, but by the Department of Budget and Management–Procurement Service.

Some of the bidders may find that unfair. It could reinstate the disqualified Tanflogio (carried locally by Armscor) as a fresh contender, and the next lowest bid(s) will be disregarded in the inconclusive bidding.

When the bids were opened last Nov. 22, Tanflogio’s bid was P16,800 per pistol, followed by Beretta (Armaments) and Glock (Trust Trade) whose bids were in the P18,200 range; and Jericho (Espineli), P22,000-something. We cannot verify yet the bid of CZ (Countermeasures).

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ENDURANCE FIRING: With their competing bids made public, it would be interesting to watch the suppliers running back to their computers to prepare for another bidding, assuming nobody changes the terms of reference.

But why did the PNP schedule the bidding so close to the end of fiscal year 2011 with the real possibility that the process could drag onto the next year and raise problems?

A couple of days after the opening of the bids, the suppliers were subjected to post-qualification of documents. They were given more than three weeks to submit additional requirements.

On Dec. 20, they were subjected to post-qualification of their guns for a series of tests, which included a 20,000-round endurance firing.

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FATAL FAILURE: On Dec. 23, around the 14,500 mark, Tanfoglio’s trigger stopped, signaling a major malfunction. Testing rules indicate “failed to fire, load, extract and eject attributable to weapon” as critical.

Yet, the PNP Technical Working Group (TWG) allowed Armscor to open the Tanfoglio, disassemble it to determine what happened, reassemble it and continue firing if they can get it to work again. It did. Testing continued.

On Dec. 26, around the 15,450 mark, Tanfoglio’s trigger stopped again, as it happened on Dec. 23. Again, Armscor was allowed to open the gun, disassemble and reassemble it, and continue firing if they could get it to work again. It did, and testing resumed.

However, at around the 15,500 mark (after less than 50 rounds fired), the same problem occurred. As before, Armscor disassembled its pistol. While reassembling the parts, it could not put the ambidextrous safety back on. A pin was missing.

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DBM BIDDING?: The PNP TWG asked Armscor to put its safety back on, or the testing would be stopped.

Armscor refused to reassemble its pistol to put the safety back on. The testing was stopped and the PNP TWG raised the case to the PNP BAC. On Dec. 28, the PNP BAC disqualified Armscor due to failure of testing.

While a resolution was being made to conduct post-qualification on the second lowest complying bidder (Beretta-Armaments), it was made known that the funds would be forwarded to the DBM-PS where bidding would reportedly take place from scratch.

Hopefully, our police will end up with more reliable weapons instead of cheap guns that falter when they are needed most.

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MORE FUN!: The new marketing line of the Department of Tourism — “It’s More Fun In The Philippines” – is so catchy it reportedly soared in Twitter trending. More so maybe because Pinoys all over the globe took to it with gusto and gave it lotsa support. Also because it is true!

A dampener is the revelation that the slogan was plagiarized from a 1951 Swiss National Tourist Office ad which proclaimed “It’s more fun in Switzerland!” (which at least rhymes).

That made it Strike 2 after the DoT was caught last year copying another campaign slogan of Poland. Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez and other officials dismissed observations that the “More Fun” line was not original.

Many reactors also said they preferred the slogan “Wow Philippines” unfurled by then Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon. But continuing that line is unthinkable as it was started by the previous administration.

The ultimate test really is if the slogan would help bring in the 10 million foreign visitors targeted by the administration.

Do we have the hospitality infrastructure — from the airport, to accommodations, to local transport systems and destinations — to give substance to the “More Fun” claim? Are we Filipinos down to the man in the street primed to be the perfect host?

And who will undertake and supervise the massive sprucing up of the entire country?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 8, 2012)

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