THE party-list lawmaker who was among those aboard the military aircraft that crashed in Tarlac last week has called on the government to pursue a “genuine” modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Coop-Natcco Representative Anthony Bravo, in his privilege speech at the House of Representatives on Monday, November 26, said he had learned that the helicopter crash last November 22, which left him and 11 others injured, was not the first but the third incident involving Sokol helicopters of the Philippine Air Force.
He said in August 2014, a Sokol helicopter carrying then 4th Infantry Division Commander Ricardo Visaya crashed in Lanao del Sur, and on November 28, 2016, a Sokol helicopter crashed in Puerto Princesa, injuring 12 persons.
“Madam Speaker, we cannot afford to lose lives just because our military aircraft, equipment, facilities or the training of our men are way behind. We need quality military assets with maximum capability,” said Bravo.
“Hence, I call on the government to pursue a genuine modernization of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. We need to develop the AFP in all aspects such as personnel capacity building, upgrading of facilities and equipment and proper maintenance,” he added.
Bravo also noted that the first phase of the AFP Modernization program ended in 2017 and for the second phase, President Rodrigo Duterte recently approved a P300-billion AFP modernization plan.
“I hope that this Congress will help the executive department in finding ways and means to fund this program Madam Speaker,” Bravo said.
In his speech, Bravo also cited the need for Congress to amend certain laws to address the “tedious” process of procurement of military equipments.
“In fact, in 2017, COA (Commission on Audit) found out that [the] P3.859-billion AFP fund was unutilized and 78.43 percent of it or P3.027 billion was for AFP's modernization intended for the acquisition of military equipment,” he said.
“The AFP cited the stringent requirements of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act as the reason for such,” Bravo added.
On November 22, Bravo, as well as former Secretary General Cesar Pareja, Colonel Arthur Baybayan, the sergeant-at-arms of the Commission on Appointments and eight other passengers, among them crew members, were invited by the military to attend a legislative stakeholders engagement activity in Capas, Tarlac.
“I am a military reservist Madam Speaker. This is to set the record straight as to the purpose of my participation in the said activity,” Bravo clarified.
He said that in the morning of the said date, the invited guests participated in a record firing at Camp O’Donnel. The unfortunate incident happened in the afternoon while they were on their way to Colonel Ernesto Rabina Air Base to witness a live fire demonstration.
“The helicopter was on its final approach when it suddenly turned on its side and fell on the ravine near the helipad. The ravine was about 30 feet deep,” recounted Bravo.
The pilot sustained head injuries, the chief aircrew had his arm amputated, while all the rest, including Bravo, sustained minor injuries following the incident.
Bravo thanked the House leadership led by Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and all those who helped him recover. (SunStar Philippines)