POSTSCRIPT / January 17, 2012 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Enrile’s steady hand in CJ trial is assuring

GOOD START: The opening statement of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, presiding over the impeachment court hearing the complaint against Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, is assuring enough for many of us that the trial will be just and fair.

We take on its face value Enrile’s assurance that the impeachment court over which he presides will be guided by the Constitution, the applicable laws, the facts presented and the senator-jurors’ individual conscience.

The man in the street may butt in that somewhere down the line, politics and other personal consideration could come in and stain the purity of the decision of the impeachment court.

But we give the Enrile-led court the benefit of the doubt. We cannot go on walking with doubt and skepticism clouding our way.

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ARMSCOR SIDE: In a letter to the STAR editor, firearms supplier Armscor which is offering its 9 mm Tanfoglio Force 99 pistol for the Philippine National Police to buy, said among other things that the gun had passed preliminary tests before the 20,000-round endurance test.

In its letter signed by Gina Marie Angangco, Armscor Senior Vice President-Corporate Planning and Business Development, the firm said the Tanfoglio pistol had passed on the first day the tests for pre-firing and dimensional, accuracy, interchangeability, maintainability, adverse condition (sand, mud, water immersion), weapon drop and safety, and magazine drop.

She said the endurance test on the second day was meant to find out if the pistol can fire 20,000 rounds in four days.

“Since it was not an accuracy test,” she said, “even if the sight fell off, the testing could continue, as long as the gun could still fire, and the missing/broken part noted on the report.”

The firers were rookie cops, mostly women. Shooting was timed at a maximum of 10 seconds of rapid fire per magazine, alternating with slow firing of maximum of 15 seconds per magazine.

The gun was then cleaned using a compressor, periodically, with rival bidders monitoring to make sure no new parts were brought in to replace the installed parts.

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STOPPAGE: At the end of each testing day, the gun was taped and placed in a case that was taped up and signed by all parties. The gun remained in the custody of the PNP.

For the test scorecard, 15 minor defects equal one major defect. Eight major defects equal one critical defect, and 120 minor defects equal a critical defect.

Angangco said that by the end of the first 5,000 rounds, two minor defects were recorded. By the end of the second 5,000 rounds, a cumulative total of seven minors were detected, mostly stove pipes attributable, she said, to the firer.

At around the 14,600 mark, the first stoppage occurred. The gun was disassembled to determine what went wrong. After checking and putting the gun back together, the test continued. She said a stoppage is not a failure.

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MISSING PIN: On the fourth day (continuation) of the endurance test, after firing around 600 rounds, the gun stopped for the second time. It was disassembled, checked and tweaked before being reassembled to make it ready for firing again.

Angangco said, “After a few more rounds, the pistol stopped, and the same procedure was applied. It was at this point that the right ambidextrous pin was discovered missing. The missing pin holds the right thumb safety lever on the gun.

“Even if it is missing, the left side thumb safety still works. Besides, this particular test was the endurance test. The PNP TWG decided to elevate to the BAC the decision on whether to allow the gun to be fired or not.

“We believe that, based on the previous rulings for the endurance test, we should be allowed to fire the gun to determine whether it can finish 20,000 rounds without replacing or changing any part — not even a pin or spring. There is no certainty that the defect is critical.”

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NO GUN FAILURE: Angangco said, “Our scorecard reflected three major defects from the three stoppages, and 12 minor defects, which is still a long way from being declared ‘gun failure’ or ‘fatal failure.’

“Competitors worried that the Tanfoglio may actually finish the 20,000 endurance test. The performance of the pistol has, so far, exceeded the expectations of the police. This also shows the serviceability of the pistol without having to resort to using new parts.

“But to our dismay, while the issue was being argued, we were informed that the 2010 budget had expired. So now, any further tests are moot and academic, since the bid has been cancelled. Considerable expense had been spent on this testing in terms of money, time and manpower.

“By the same token, the stoppage of the Tanfoglio after an unprecedented 15,000 rounds fired could not have been declared a ‘gun failure’ as the parameters to declare a gun failure were not yet present — the gun was not fired after checking and reassembly.”

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RIVALS STILL UNTESTED: “A policeman will not fire 20,000 rounds over the lifetime of his gun,” Angangco said. “Springs and other small parts are changed periodically. Even well-known brands have to change their springs every 3,000 rounds.”

She noted that the other competitors have not yet been tested for 20,000-round endurance, so there still is a possibility that none of the other pistols could pass that requirement.

She disputed a report relayed to us that Armscor refused to put the safety back on after the gun malfunctined. She said the safety was always on, and on both sides of the gun.

The DILG lawyer advised Armscor not to touch the gun, but to secure it and raise the issue to the bids and awards committee for decision.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 17, 2012)

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