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City Hall bought phony rifles – manufacturer

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

A US-based manufacturer said the five rifles bought by the Iloilo City government for the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team might be fakes, according to a city councilor.

 

Councilor Perla Zulueta said she received transcripts of email exchanges between her undisclosed source and a certain George W. Holloway who is in-charge of Law Enforcement and Government Sales of gun manufacturer Olympic Arms, Inc.

 

Zulueta said the emails indicate that the supposed K23B “Stubby” rifles acquired to beef up the SWAT have different specifications from what Olympic Arms manufacture and sell.

 

Holloway said a factory K23B would have a 1×7 twist barrel. The rifles the City Government bought from R. Espineli Trading had 1×9 twist barrel.

 

“If they are in fact 1×9 (twist barrel) they are fake,” Holloway said in his email message dated December 6, 2008.

 

A barrel twist of 1×7, which is also similar to “1 in 7”, means a projectile traveling down the barrel rotates one complete turn around its own axis in 7 inches. The twist barrel stabilizes the bullet when fired from a gun.

 

Holloway’s statement backs the contention of Zulueta that the SWAT rifles did not follow Olympic Arms specifications.

 

“The discrepancies lie on the different twist barrel which is 1×7 in the original firearm while the rifles bought by the City Government had 1×9. The rifles must be full automatic while the fakes are semi-automatic, Zulueta said.

 

As regards the purchase and export of firearms from Olympic Arms to the Philippines, Holloway said orders must be made through an export company like ETSS or World Wide Sports.

 

“They are able to handle the export/import of these weapons and are on file with us as dealers. We are not able to directly send product to the PI (Philippine Islands) because of the policies of the US State Department,” Holloway said.

 

The Olympic Arms executive said all firearms exported from the US are full automatic unlike the ones purchased by City Hall which are semi-automatic.

 

The serial numbers of genuine Olympic Arms items, Holloway said, have a “DE # # # # serial number range.”

 

“There may possibly some that have a ‘E # # # # number range’, but anything more than four numbers is for sure a fake,” Holloway added in another email dated December 10.

 

Zulueta said the serial number is another indication that the rifles purchased by City Hall are fake because their serial number starts with the letters BPNP instead of the DE or E number range.

 

The City Government through the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) headed by Atty. Edgardo Gil, city legal officer, bought the five rifles from Espineli for P675,000.

 

The Bacolod City-based Espineli, which was represented by a certain Roberto Herbolario, claims to be an accredited distributor of Olympic Arms in the country.

 

Herbolario reportedly returned the City Government’s money after the controversy was exposed in the media.

 

The firearms have also been returned to the supplier but Zulueta said the City Council will still investigate the issue in an executive session with the key BAC members.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

MEMBERS of the Iloilo City Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) can still be held liable for the alleged substandard rifles purchased for the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team even if the supplier has refunded the City government.

 

Department of Budget and Management (DBM) assistant regional director Alfonso Bedonia said the fact that R. Espineli Trading decided to return more than P600,000 to the City Hall does not exonerate BAC members from any legal responsibility relative to the rifles deal.

 

City treasurer Katherine Tingson confirmed that Roberto Herbolario of R. Espineli has refunded the city P638,839.32 as indicated in Official Receipt No. 3132947 after the media exposed the five defective rifles the firm sold to City Hall.

 

Tingson said the rifles are still in their vault as only the General Services Office (GSO) headed by Agustin Sangrador can return the items to R. Espineli.

 

Bedonia said the BAC should have conducted a post qualification audit by test firing a sample of the rifles before the committee awarded the contract to R. Espineli.

 

The post qualification audit is done after the BAC has determined the lowest bidder and before the contract is awarded to the winner.

 

Bedonia said the post qualification audit is the most important phase of the bidding process as this will ascertain if the bidder followed the specifications set by the BAC as regards the items to be purchased.

 

The DBM official said a gun expert representing the BAC should be present in the test firing.

 

A representative from the end user, in this case the SWAT, should also be present in all BAC meetings to guide the committee on the details of the rifles, Bedonia added.

 

Bedonia said the GSO can also be held liable for accepting the alleged substandard rifles without any test firing.

 

The Sangguniang Panlungsod the other day passed a resolution requesting Sangrador and his two supply officers, City Administrator Melchor Tan, and the City Treasurer’s Office’s (CTO) in-charge of cash division where the rifles were kept in the vault for a closed door executive session at the vice-mayor conference room 9am of Dec. 16.

 

Councilor Erwin Plagata, who authored the resolution, said they will be forced to relay the rifles issue to the Ombudsman if said officials don’t attend the meeting.

 

The City Council will conduct an investigation to know whether there were irregularities on the bidding process of the substandard rifles.

 

The alleged substandard rifles were exposed in the media after SWAT members complained before the City Council appropriations committee that the firearms’ target sight cannot be zeroed-in while the paint flaked when scratched.

 

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