POSTSCRIPT / January 15, 2012 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Reinstating a losing bidder for PNP guns

REBIDDING EYED: If he reinstates a bidder that has been disqualified, Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno might show unusual interest in the procurement of more than 12,300 pistols for the national police within a ceiling price of P280 million.

Either President Noynoy Aquino or Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo may want to ask Puno what is going on. But remember that Puno once boasted in an interview that even the President cannot just tell him off.

As Camp Crame insiders tell it, Puno wants a rebidding after the Italian-made Tanfoglio 9 mm pistol of lowest bidder Armscor suffered three failures in a row in the 20,000-round endurance test conducted under the rules by the end-user Philippine National Police.

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REINSTATEMENT: As the PNP eliminated Tanfoglio-Amscor and prepared to continue testing the guns of the next lowest bidder, Puno reportedly told the bids and awards committee that the ongoing process was to be aborted.

Puno reportedly said that the money intended for the purchase would be sent back to the Department of the Budget and Management, which would then conduct a repeat bidding. That is expected to reinstate Armscor as a qualified bidder.

The 9 mm pistols offered by the next lowest bidders were the Beretta (local partner is Armaments), Glock (Trust Trade) and Jericho (Espineli). The bid of Countermeasures, the fifth supplier offering the CZ pistol, was not opened for its failure to submit certain requirements.

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THREE STOPPAGES: With the bids already opened last Nov. 22, the prices of the competing suppliers have been compromised. A new bidding, if pushed through, will look like a poker game where the players have their cards spread open on the table.

The order for 12,300 pistols, equipped with non-corrosive polymer grips, is by far the biggest one-time handgun purchase of the PNP.

In the endurance test, the Tanfoglio reportedly stalled when it reached the 14,500-round mark, then again at 15,450 and at 15,500. Ordnance observers said the problem, considered critical, was in the trigger mechanism.

In all instances, Armscor technicians were allowed to open the gun, fix or replace the defective part, but they themselves gave up after the third stoppage.

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ESTOPPED: Armscor is now airing in media the idea of lowering the torture test threshold to 5,000 rounds. But it is estopped from belatedly questioning the criteria since it had submitted a bid under those terms and agreed to fire 20,000 rounds to prove its Tanfoglio.

When the terms were still being discussed, sources said, no less than President Aquino, himself a shooter, had wanted a 25,000-round test. The consensus was reached, however, to fix it at 20,000.

The endurance test is just one hurdle. After that torture, the gun is supposed to also undergo x-ray examination for cracks and other indications of metal fatigue. The Tanfoglio never reached that stage.

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QUALITY ASSURANCE: Armscor is reported in the media as thinking of a “better” substitute, the 9 mm Caracal. This looks like an admission of the inferior quality of its Tanfoglio. It is also an indication that a new bidding might just be ordered with Armscor again in contention.

Why all that fuss over quality? We do not want the PNP to buy cheap but inferior guns that could compromise the lives of policemen and bystanders. Same thing applies when buying weapons for the armed forces.

It is not just quality. Under the tuwid na daan (straight path) of President Aquino, suppliers are entitled to fairness and transparency in biddings, not the changing of the rules and terms in midstream.

The Commander in Chief will understand this concern for the uniformed service more than any civilian subordinate will.

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WHY OUTSIDE?: House prosecutors claim they have an air-tight case against Chief Justice Renato C. Corona. If so, how come they are all over town presenting “evidence” with a clear intent to convict him in advance outside the Senate impeachment court?

If they are that sure of their case, the congressmen would or should stick to the rules of procedure and just nail down the Chief Justice in a speedy trial in the impeachment court, not outside.

That they keep arguing their case outside can mean that they are not so sure of the eight charges they had leveled against their quarry whom they want to replace with a Chief Justice who is more willing to toe the Malacañang line.

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DAMAGED GOODS: Unfortunately for Corona, even acquittal will not clean completely his name and that of his family.

The demolition job has been so systematic that, as has been pointed out, he and the institution he represents will end up being damaged goods. The mud being flung at his person has splattered on the Supreme Court and the entire judiciary.

After the prosecutors and their allies in media had dragged the carcasses of their victims around the arena, how will the judiciary – one of three pillars of government — be able to stand up again?

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FRIENDLIEST COUNTRIES: Somebody asked me why my Postscript of Jan. 10 (Tuesday) had the Philippines nowhere among the Forbes’  Top Ten friendliest countries while a STAR news story yesterday by Artemio Dumlao had the country as No. 8.

The explanation is that Postscript quoted Forbes’ citing an HSBC survey of 4,127 expatriates in more than 100 countries between April and June 2010 while yesterday’s report was based on a similar survey conducted later, between May and July 2011. Preferences apparently changed within one year.

In the latest HSBC survey, the 10 friendliest countries in descending order are New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, Canada, United States, Turkey, United Kingdom, the Philippines, Spain and Malaysia.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 15, 2012)

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