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Kevlar helmets and Janet Napoles

My curiosity about Kevlar was triggered by an article in the latest issue of Time Magazine. It reported the death of Stephanie Kwolek, the DuPont chemist who discovered by mistake, a new synthetic fiber that proved to be five times as strong as steel. DuPont called it “Kevlar” and although its original purpose was to strengthen tires, its light weight,  resiliency and strength would lead to its applications in bullet-proof vests, body armor and combat helmets that would save countless lives of soldiers and civilian personnel. In particular, Kevlar helmets can absorb the blast of a grenade, greatly improving the chances of survival of fighting men in close combat.

By coincidence, the headline story of the Inquirer last June 30 dwelt on Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Gregory Ong, who in 2010 as chair of the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division, “acquitted Janet Napoles (of pork barrel fame) in the questionable purchase of 500 Kevlar helmets by the Philippine Marines.”

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If my memory serves me right, this case was first reported in the media more than 12 years ago. This means that it took the Sandiganbayan roughly 10 years before coming out with its decision on the case. Some knowledgeable observers of our judicial system tell me that the longer it takes to decide a case, the longer the accused or the victims remain milking cows for unscrupulous individuals working within the system.  Justice delayed is justice denied. It can also become a terrible injustice for the innocent.

According to the same Inquirer story, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Angelina Sandoval Gutierrez was entrusted with the task of looking into Justice Ong’s ties with Napoles as alleged by two whistle-blowers in the pork barrel scam. The last paragraph of the Inquirer story makes for interesting reading:

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“Noting that the Supreme Court had not tasked her to touch on the merits of the Kevlar case, Gutierrez said she could not ‘hold back her skepticism’ about Napoles’ acquittal in that case.

“She questioned why Ong’s division acquitted Napoles on the grounds that she did not conspire with the suppliers and was not one of the dealer-payees when its ruling showed that she followed up the processing of the documents, that she was in charge of delivering the helmets and that the checks for payment of the P3.8 million helmets were deposited and cleared in her bank account.

“Considering this glaring irregularity, it is safe to conclude that indeed respondent has a hand in the acquittal of Napoles. All along, the whistle-blowers were telling the truth, Gutierrez said.”

The Fourth Division of the Sandiganbayan headed by Justice Ong also recently issued a suspension order on former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for the NBN-ZTE fiasco that occurred some seven years ago. It has been some time since Gloria Arroyo was elected congresswoman from the Second District of Pampanga. It is only now that she is being suspended.

My concern on this issue is not so much the slow pace of justice in our country, although this is a serious problem that should be addressed with greater resolve and commitment.

My concern is two-fold: First, if Janet Napoles was involved in the Kevlar  case more than 12 years ago, in what other deals was she a participant insofar as military contracts are concerned? Given the skepticism expressed by Justice Gutierrez on the acquittal of Napoles in the Kevlar case, perhaps it would be prudent to look into other deals that have Napoles’ fingerprints on them.

Second, we must ensure that equipment issued to our soldiers for their personal protection, such as helmets and body armor, be of the highest standards. We cannot afford to fool around with these matters seeing that they involve the lives and limbs  of our men in uniform. Our soldiers deserve only the best for their personal safety and security. How many of our officers and men who died during the recent Zamboanga crisis could have been saved with proper helmets and body armor?

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In his “Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” former US Defense Secretary Robert Gates reveals that in the early days of the Iraq war, 80 percent of US casualties were caused by improvised explosive devices (IEDs). He immediately ordered the development and deployment of mine-resistant, ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicles that provided better security against the strongest IEDs. Perhaps, we could use a few MRAPs not so much as shields against IEDs but for protection during ambush situations.

When a scandal broke out at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, with news reports describing hospital buildings full of “mold, filth, leaks, rodents, cockroaches, and overall shabbiness,” he relieved the hospital commander, Maj. Gen. George Weightman, and fired the secretary of the Army, Fran Harvey, who he felt “did not take the problem seriously enough.” In a message to every American serviceman and woman all over the world, he pledged that “I have no higher priority than taking care of our wounded warriors.”

This is the kind of commitment to the welfare of our troops that our military leaders must constantly exhibit.

* * *

Unique education experience.

Come Sept. 1, 2014, Canadian American School (CAS), an international school located inside the spanking, brand-new complex The City Club Alphaland Makati Place (TCCAMP), opens its school doors to 50 pioneering students currently registered in its ongoing preschool foreign language immersion programs (tots aged 1-5 years). CAS is unique in that its programs are nontraditional and creativity-driven. In its ongoing summer programs, 6-14 year-old students create scientific, moving objects in Robotics; explore characters in literacy and drama workshops; read series books in a Summer Reading Club; play violin and piano and guitar; learn values, social graces and personality development; and jump and stretch in Jazznastics.

There’s also a school nurse who takes care of the very young—1-year-olds, 14-month-olds—and looks over them by the swimming pool verandah. When they get sleepy, CAS has a quiet, leafy area (on a spacious, comfy daybed!) to lay them down. Early next year, a huge playground, complete with interactive water features, will open up next to the preschool. All CAS students will have access to TCCAMP facilities.

Today, July 7, at 3 p.m., Ms Gretchen del Rosario, spouse of Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario, will cut a ceremonial ribbon, marking the formal opening of school activities. Visit CAS soon! Call 463-1669 now to make reservations for your child’s attendance!

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TAGS: corruption, Janet Napoles, Kevlar helmets, Military, nation, news, plunder, pork barrel scam
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