Even before the second hearing on the sale of the second helicopters to the Philippine National Police (PNP) was scheduled yesterday, Aquino administration allies in the Senate appear to have already concluded that former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo is the prime culprit in the chopper sale and must be charged.

Alleged collusion of government officials with Mike Arroyo in the alleged rigging the P105-million supply contract in the acquisition of three helicopters was further magnified yesterday, as some higher officials stood accused by the Aquino allies of having allegedly participated in making the Arroyo-

owned choppers “tailor-fit” for the purported second hand choppers to sell the deal.

Before the PNP announced plans of acquiring helicopters for use of the elite Special Action Force (SAF), specifications for the units to be acquired went through changes twice, more than a year before the two failed public biddings took place.

Documents presented by PNP Chief Raul Bacalzo before the Senate blue ribbon committee headed by Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona, showed that the “approved standard specifications” for the light police operational helicopter (LPOH) was adopted and endorsed for final approval of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) as early as Feb. 2008.

But before the Napolcom approved the resolution on May 5, 2008, the PNP, through the Uniform and Equipment Standardization Board (UESB), and the National Police Commission, modified the specifications of the helicopters through an issuance of resolution No. 2008-16 dated April 9, 2008 to conform with the technical characteristics of Robinson R44 Raven 1 choppers, which, according to witnesses privy to the negotiations, were owned by Arroyo.

The said choppers supplied by Manila Aerospace Products Trading Corp. (Maptra) were alleged to have originated from Lion Air Inc., where the alleged Arroyo-owned units were registered.

Initially, former PNP director for logistics and chair of the inspection and acceptance committee George Piano told Senate probers that they merely conformed with the Napolcom resolution stating the specifications on the units to be acquired, saying they dependended on the memorandum submitted stating to the effect that the two helicopters conformed to Napolcom specifications.

This answer irked Guingona who vented his ire at Piano, saying that was he inspector for if he can’t do the right thing.

The PNP-UESB then headed by Deputy Director General Emmanuel Carta drafted the original specifications through Resolution No. 2008-01 issued on Feb. 11, 2008, among others, a minimum power rating of 225-horsepower, 2,500-pound minimum gross weight, minimum cruise speed of 110 knots, minimum range of 229 miles, and minimum height capability of 12,000 feet.

Modifications on the standard specifications were made, however, on April 9, 2008 through Resolution No. 2008-16 issued by PNP-UESB chairman Deputy Director General Ismael Rafanan.

Sen. Franklin Drilon noted that the statements made by Piano in his submitted sworn affidavit that the memorandum on the results of inspection showed that the two units of Robinson R44 Raven I delivered by Maptra “conformed with the Napolcom-approved PNP specifications,” after which Drilon inquired on who supplied the technical specifications because “it would appear that these were tailor-fit for a Raven 1 helicopter. No other helicopter can fit this specification except Raven I,” he added, pointing out that the original specifications would have disqualified Raven 1.

The Napolcom resolution showed as signatories then chairman and Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno along with Commissioners Celia Sanidad-Leones, Miguel Coronel and Avelino Razon Jr.

Allegedly Arroyo acquired five helicopters for the 2004 presidential bid of his wife, former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo, two of which were supposedly sold to the PNP as brand new.

In the two resolutions, the first approving the standard spefications for LPOH and the second which carried the amendments to supposedly fit the Raven I of the Arroyos, Chief Supt. Leocaldo Santiago Jr. who was then the SAF director or the “end-user” of the deal, was among the signatories.

During that time of the Senate hearing, the issue on the Napolcom resolution that prescribed the final specifications of the choppers had not yet surfaced and Sen. Panfilo Lacson pointed out to the committee that Santiago’s proposal would require such document from the commission.

“We all know that under the procurement system, all procurements must be brand new unless it’s under exceptional circumstances,” he said.

Lacson then urged his former comrades to come clean on the issue as they appear to be continuously covering up the mess.

Lacson said the Senate wants to get to the bottom of this controversy, as he stressed that the ownership issue has clearly been established already and right now, Arroyo is already liable criminally.

During the hearing, Lion Air Inc. general manager Rene Sia told the committee that documents on the purchase of the said choppers by Arroyo, a wire transfer of BDO Herrera branch on Dec. 11, 2003 to Robinsons Helicopter Co. came from LTA Inc.

“(The funds that came from) LTA Inc. (Lourdes T. Arroyo bldg where Mr. Arroyo holds office) was sent through direct wire transfer to the account of Robinsons,” Sia said.

Sia said they were furnished a copy of the wire transfer certificate through fax, the first tranche of payment amounted to $500,000 and later on.

“Later, this was followed by an instruction coming from LTA for Mr. (Archibald) Po (Lion Air president) to open an account in Union Bank in Richville Branch, Alabang. It was just a verbal instruction to open an account. We have a copy of the passbook,” he said, adding that the credit memo from another account, a deposit was made in the amount of $408,067.06.

The second deposit was made in Feb. 27, 2004 in the amount of $ 509,056.41 and followed in March 1, $148,271.53 or a total of $1.05 million, which Sia said meant that as they paid for it, then the Arroyos were the beneficiary.

“Contrary to what you testified earlier that you caused the remittance of US$ 95,000 each, that’s not an accurate statement. Judging from the papers you have now, it was LTA Inc. (that remitted)… you found out later on that LTA remitted to Robinsons,” Lacson pointed out.

Three of the four new witnesses also implicated Arroyo as the alleged owner of the choppers.

Edith Solano-Juguan, who acted as “collecting agent” of Po to Arroyo, told Senate probers that until last May, she had been religiously visiting the LTA office to exact from Rowena del Rosario, purported accountant of the former first gentleman, so-called operational expenses incurred by the five choppers to Lion Air which is keeping maintenance of these units.

Juguan claimed that it has been her routine to visit Del Rosario once a month since 2004 or for the past seven years to receive payment from billings made by Lion Air Inc. made in “cash.”

From P350,000 Juguan claimed that there was a time that she collected as much as P1 million in cash and that Arroyo was supposedly in an adjacent room of the office and could see her counting the money along with Del Rosario.

Asked if she often saw Arroyo, Juguan answered in the affirmative and told the committee that the former First Gentleman would often just inquire about Po, her boss.

“(Payments made) were always in cash. They never issued any checks,” she said.

Del Rosario, like Arroyo, was also a no-show in the hearing. She asked that she be spared since she needs time to consult with her lawyer as the invitation sent by the committee did not reach her.

“Apparently, I was notified through my former office address at LTA bldg. in Perea St., Makati City. I have already resigned from LTA Inc. and as such, was not able to personally receive the notice you sent me,” she said in a letter addressed to Guingona dated Aug. 9.

Almost in the same period, former Lion Air Inc. flight dispatcher Domingo Lazo that from March 2004 until he resigned the company in June 2009, he would be instructed by Arroyo whenever he or any member of the First Family, would use any of their alleged choppers.

“Upon the instruction of Po, I was told that FG (first gentleman) would issue instructions to me,” he told Guingona, adding that Arroyo communicated to him only through mobile text messages.

Former police pilot Chief Insp. Dennis Silvestre and resigned Air Force Capt. Margarito Labastilla told Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada that they served as pilots a number of times to Arroyo and some of his family members.

There were at least two instances where Silvestre served as pilot to Arroyo and most of the times, he would flew in Arroyo’s sons Reps. Mikey and Dato. In one of the two plane rides Arroyo had with Silvestre, the latter recalled having resigned Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri in their trip to Bukidnon taking off from Cagayan de Oro.

Silvestre said he served as pilot, “during and after” the 2004 elections while Labastilla claimed that he was told to proceed to Davao sometime after the elections that same year to augment the flights that the former can no longer accommodate.

Guingona said it only goes to show, based on the testimonies they have heard, on the supposed ownership of the Arroyos on the choppers.

“There’s a cover up. That’s very very clear. They’re hiding something. They’re not telling everything. There is a cover up here. Their answer border on the ridiculous so its already absurd so that’s why maybe Senate president was irked,” he said.

“There is enough to show that there is evidence. Definitely there is probable cause. I don’t want to make conclusions yet until the end of this hearing. But so far there is probable cause (to pursue preliminary investigation against Arroyo),” he said.

FG’s illness real, Senate doctor tells solons 08/12/2011

Senators who threatened to subpoena former First Gentleman Juan Miguel “Mike” Arroyo to force him to testify before them have reached a dead end, as their own Senate physicians who were directed to check on the “excuse” of Arroyo’s non-attendance at the hearing yesterday confirmed that, indeed, his heart ailment is risky and that he cannot be subjected to stress.

This was stated by Senate Medical Director Mariano Blancia Jr.

The Senate physician said that if he were to do a diagnosis, he can state truthfully that Arroyo’s heart condition is really serious and if subjected to stress, his blood vessels are likely to separate, which would be fatal.

Arroyo was unable to attend the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing yesterday as he had been invited by the Senate panel to shed light on his alleged links to the sale of pre-owned helicopters to the Philippine National Police (PNP).

But the blue ribbon chairman refused to take the word of Arroyo’s counsel, and immediately directed the Senate physician and a government doctor to examine Arroyo’s medical condition.

They did go to St. Luke’s Medical Center in Global City, Taguig to confer with the cardiologist of Arroyo who affirmed the veracity of the medical certificate issued to the Senate committee.

But the other cardiologists whose expertise on the subject sought the pertinent records, which could not be supplied to the government doctors.

Meanwhile, Malacañang said yesterday it was not surprised by the decision of Mr. Arroyo to excuse himself anew from appearing before the Senate panel investigating the alleged anomalous purchase of second-hand helicopters by the PNP.

In a press briefing, Deputy Presidential Spokesman Abigail Valte said that the Palace is already expecting Mr. Arroyo to cite his medical condition so that he can be excused from answering questions on allegations that he owned the helicopters that were sold to the PNP.

“Well, it was quite expected. We knew when he came back and he gave his arrival statement that he was less than forthright with his intentions of not appearing at the Senate investigation. He just said that ‘I’m back’ but he didn’t say anything about participating. So, again, we’re not disappointed. We expected that he would not attend,” said Valte although no less than the Senate medical team has already certified that Mr. Arroyo is still physically unfit to attend the Senate hearings.

Earlier, Malacañang said Mr. Arroyo’s statements about his health condition can be a prelude of more attempts to evade ongoing investigations of his alleged involvement in various large-scale anomalies, particularly the PNP chopper mess.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda pointed out that Mr. Arroyo’s remarks upon his arrival from Hongkong in relation to his health condition could be a sign that he might again try to dodge summons for him to explain allegations that he is involved in anomalous transactions, specifically the alleged purchase by the PNP of second-hand helicopters passed off as brand new.

Lacierda said they welcome Mr. Arroyo’s statement that he is prepared to face all the accusations but noted that “ he will be telling us the truth and not cloak himself under the right against self incrimination or to even invoke his health.” Virgilio Bugaoisan

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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