MANILA, Philippines (June 7, 2012) - For pulling off sales of second-hand helicopters passed as brand new to the national police, former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, former Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Jesus Verzosa and 20 others are now facing graft charges before the Sandiganbayan.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales approved on June 1 the indictment of 19 retired and active police officers led by Verzosa and former deputy director general for operations Jefferson Soriano, and Hilario de Vera, president of the PNP supplier Manila Aerospace Products Trading Corp. (Maptra).
Arroyo, husband of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and the others were accused of conspiring in the fraudulent sale of three second-hand choppers to the PNP for the brand new price of P104.99 million in separate transactions in 2009 and 2010.
Graft investigators said Maptra had no technical and financial eligibility to undertake the multi-million-peso supply contract in 2009 because its previous biggest deal was only worth P15.3 million.
The PNP bought two standard Robinson R44 Raven I helicopters and one fully equipped Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter through negotiated procurement from Maptra.
The Office of the Ombudsman found out that the two Raven I helicopters offered by Maptra were not brand new and did not conform to the specifications on endurance and ventilating system that the PNP first set when it sought to buy helicopters.
Despite this, the PNP still bought the second-hand helicopters, which Arroyo owned, at brand new prices.
The indictments were based on the recommendations of Assistant Special Prosecutors Omar Sagadal and Manuel Soriano.
The other accused in the helicopter deal were PNP Director for Logistics and Negotiation Committee chairman Luizo Ticman, Director for Research and Development Ronald Roderos, Director for Comptrollership Romeo Hilomen, Director for the PNP Special Action Force Leocadio Santiago Jr., Director for Legal Service Herold Ubalde and Director for Logistics Support Service George Piano.
Also charged were National Headquarters Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) members Superintendents Ermilando Villafuerte and Roman Loreto, and Senior Superintendents Luis Saligumba, Job Nolan Antonio and Edgar Pataan, Senior Superintendent Mansue Lukban, Chief Inspector Maria Josefina Recometa, Superintendent Claudio Gaspar Jr., Senior Superintendent Larry Balmaceda, Senior Police Officer 3 (SPO3) Ma. Linda Padojinog, PO3 Avensuel Dy and private respondent Ruben Gongona, also a BAC member.
The Ombudsman said evidence showed the accused police officials gave “unwarranted benefits, advantage and preference” to Arroyo, De Vera and Maptra.
Arroyo hits new graft case
Arroyo slammed the filing of the case against him, saying it was another move to persecute him and his family.
Edna Batacan, Arroyo’s lawyer, said they were not informed nor given copies of the charges filed.
“I don’t know (how) they (prosecutors) connected me to the case. I’m no longer an owner of LTA (the Arroyo-owned company that reportedly leased the helicopters),” Arroyo said in a telephone interview. “I’ve never spoke with any police official.”
“This is persecution, nothing else,” he said.
Batacan said the prosecutors violated their own administrative order in not informing them and giving them a copy of the charges to allow them to respond.
She said they learned of the case through the media.
“What can we do? We have not seen nor read the (charges),” she said.
Arroyo also filed a petition in the Sandiganbayan yesterday to allow him to travel to Tokyo and Hong Kong from June 16 to 23.
He said he received another invitation from a Filipino community group from June 16 to 21. Arroyo met the same group last April in Tokyo.
From June 21 to 23, Arroyo said he intends to go to Hong Kong to attend to some business matters of LTA Inc. of which he is president.
“Accused most respectfully submits that he is still entitled to his constitutional right to travel as he is still innocent unless proven otherwise, subject only to the limitations this Honorable Court may impose,” Arroyo said in his three-page motion to the Sandiganbayan.
Arroyo and his wife former president Arroyo are co-accused in another graft case in connection with the scrapped $329-million national broadband network project awarded to China’s ZTE Corp.
The other accused are former transportation secretary Leandro Mendoza and former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos.
All four have been arraigned and pleaded not guilty to the charges, although trial has yet to start.
Meanwhile, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo is hopeful that the case on the helicopter anomaly in the PNP will be resolved soon after the Office of the Ombudsman filed graft charges against Arroyo and other ranking police officials.
Robredo said this development “sends a message to PNP that the present administration is bent on reforming the organization.”
The PNP vowed to abide by the order of the court.
PNP spokesman Senior Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr. said they have yet to see a copy of the order of the Ombudsman.
“The PNP will abide or comply with what will be the order or advice of the Ombudsman,” Cerbo said. (From Philstar.com)