MANILA - Every single one of the 44,186 brand new M4 rifles procured for the Philippine Army were returned to its supplier for correction.
President Benigno S. Aquino III, assisted by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, leads the ceremonial distribution of assault rifles to the Philippine Army and Philippine Navy Marine troops at the Armed Forces of the Philippines General Headquarters canopy at Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City on August 14, 2014. Photo by Robert Viñas
These are the same rifles that President Benigno Aquino III himself turned over to the Philippine Army in August last year. The president often talked about how the government practiced transparency and efficiency in the use of funds in the procurement of these arms.
READ: Soldiers get new M4 assault rifles
The Philippine Army's Technical Inspection and Acceptance Committee (TIAC) found that the rear sight of all the M4s were moving, and therefore could give the shooter a problem in hitting his target.
It turned out that the rifles had not yet even passed the final inspection of the TIAC when the various turnover ceremonies took place, including Aquino's.
This means the very rifle that President Aquino was holding during the turnover ceremony he headed was defective as well.
The purchase of the new M4 rifles falls under the joint Philippine Army - Philippine Marine Corps assault rifle acquisition project of the Philippine government.
Some 6,443 M4 rifles were also distributed to the Philippine Navy.
The estimated contract price for the entire project is P1.9 billion, which was sourced from the AFP capability upgrade program of 2012.
In 2013, US-based Remington Outdoor Company won the bid for the project.
Fortunately, none of the M4 rifles issued to the Marines was found detective because theirs were fitted with optic sights for aiming, and therefore did not make use of front or rear sights.
In speeches during various military events, Aquino often mentioned the M4 rifles, highlighting the fact that it has been decades since soldiers held new weapons.
Aquino boasted of how the government managed to save P1.2 billion when it bought the rifles. These savings, Aquino said, were to be used to buy more rifles for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
DEFECTIVE RIFLES NOT USED
AFP spokesperson Colonel Restituto Padilla clarified that none of the defective rifles was ever used or issued for combat, as the defects were discovered before they were issued to soldiers.
The turnovers to the various units, Padilla said, were merely ceremonial.
AFP Public Affairs chief Noel Detoyato, meanwhile, said the issue should not be a source of embarrassment for President Aquino because he only intended to show that he was after the welfare of Filipino soldiers.
As of last week, all of the 44,186 rifles have been corrected and accepted by the TIAC. Of these, 24,300 rifles are now ready "for re-issuance," according to Detoyato.
The second batch composed of 19,886 rifles are still undergoing ballistics test at the Philippine National Police.