House Appropriations Committee Chair Karlo Nogralesasked the Department of National Defense (DND) to conduct a deeper probe on reports that the ammunition being used by the Maute group as they battle government forces in Marawi City are coming from  Government Arsenal,  which is the government’s ammunition plant in Bataan and from private arms and ammunitions manufacturers.

In yesterday’s budget presentation of the Department of National Defense (DND), DND Secretary Delfin Lorenzana did not categorically deny that ammunition boxes with Government Arsenal markings were among those recovered in areas in Marawi that were cleared by government troops.

He admitted however that  ammunition boxes with ARMSCOR Philippines markings were among those discovered by government during clearing operations. Armscor Philippines is a local gun and ammunitions manufacturer, dealer and importer.

Government Arsenal chief  Maj. Gen. Jonathan Martir (ret) on the other hand claimed they cannot monitor the distribution of the ammunition that are manufactured in the Government Arsenal Bataan plant after turning them over to the AFP’s Logistics Command.

Nograles said he saw the photos of the ammunition boxes which are purportedly issued by the DND’s Government Arsenal and he is deeply concerned that government-manufactured firearms and ammunition are falling into the wrong hands and are being used to kill and maim government security forces.

“The worst thing that we can have is magkaroon tayo ng mga ganitong encounters (in Marawi) tapos ang ginagamit na bala ng mga kalaban natin ay galing sa government arsenal,” Nograles said.

Nograles also quizzed the DND on the progress of its compliance with President Duterte’s instruction for the immediate acquisition of various life-saving medical equipment that are direly needed by military hospitals.

These medical equipment includes Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machines, catherization laboratory and hyperbaric chamber.

Lorenzana admitted there were delays in the acquisition of these equipment due to bidding and procurement problems.

Nograles noted however that the DND has yet to conduct the bidding process for P537-Million worth of hospital facilities that are supposed to benefit wounded military personnel, such as the Php150-Million for  the general repairs of the  V. Luna General Hospital, the Php 327-Million for the OR/ER facility of V. Luna General Hospital  and 60M for Enlisted personnel barracks.

Nograles also questioned the practice of the DND in procuring second-hand and refurbished aircraft and other equipment as he found it strange that the AFP would prefer old and refurbished materials over brand new ones.

He cited the case of the DND’s procurement of the 13 refurbished UH-1D helicopters during the Aquino administration where 2 units have already crashed causing at least three fatalities.

During the hearing, Philippine Airforce Chief Lt. Gen. Edgar Fallorina admitted that one of the recently acquired UH-1D chopper crashed due to mechanical failure as the engine is already too old to be still in use.

“What the investigating team found out is, there was really a problem on the engine. It was really a material failure. The engine has been operating with the aircraft more than the other engines from the other aircrafts. So being really second hand aircraft we can only rely on our best effort in terms of maintenance,” Fallorina admitted.

Earlier in the hearing, Lorenzana dismissed as fake news reports that the US is currently coining an operation name for a possible drone strike in Mindanao. Lorenzana  and AFP Chief Eduardo Ano both maintained that the US cannot intervene unless the attack was done by a 3rd party state.

The Budget of the Office of the Vice President breezed through the House Appropriations Committee with no questions asked. Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman made the motion, citing tradition.

Vice President Leni Robredo was present to defend her budget, “ tumaas kasi kamis a personnel services yung dating  positions na di filled up..finiluupan na namin pero grabe binaba ng MOE namin.”

The OVP is seeking is a budget of 443.9M, up from 428.6M in 2017.

Robredo also said, “nagpapasalamat tayo kahti handa tayong idefend yung budget.

we took it as a sign malaki tiwala ng Committee on Appropriations. yun talaga. talagang ano naman halos konting konti lang difference niya from last year’

Robredo added that the OVP is no longer just functioning for ceremonial purposes. “nag veer away kami from a purely ceremonial function to mas advocacy ehavy pero advocacy namin ams collaboration with the private scetor halos hindi nabago yung pangangailangan talagang nastreamline ang services. “