Mike Arroyo slams Senate, ready to face raps-A A +A
Thursday, October 13, 2011
MANILA (Updated 4:40 p.m.) -- Former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo said he is ready to face the graft charges to be filed against him by senators despite the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee’s “biased” recommendations.
"Clearly, this is a biased Senate where the law is trampled upon by their whim and prejudice. I am prepared to dispute the findings in the proper forum where the proper rules of evidence I am hoping will be upheld and observed," he said.
Arroyo issued the statement after Senator Teofisto "TG" Guingona III, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, and Senators Panfilo Lacson, and Aquilino Pimentel III filed charges against him for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act over the alleged anomalous sale of second-hand helicopters to the Philippine National Police (PNP) in 2009.
The committee said Thursday it found conspiracy among and between Arroyo and the officers of the PNP in the purchase of helicopters.
Guingona said former Local Government secretary Ronaldo Puno, former PNP chief Jesus Versoza, and other police officials were in a "scheming conspiracy" under the influence of Arroyo, the husband of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
They should be charged with graft for the "grossly disadvantageous" deal. "No doubt, the helicopters sold to PNP were second-hand," Guingona said.
However, Arroyo said, “Senator Guingona said there is conspiracy in the deal but how can there be conspiracy when no testimony was made that I talked to the police or used undue advantage or influence for them to purchase the helicopters?”
“The whole investigation has not been in aid of legislation but a charade to indict us without any solid piece of evidence. The Senate Committee has found me the owner of helicopters just on a mere say-so of one person whose testimony even contradicted with their other main witness. The Senate Committee has made the findings even when all documentary evidences show I’m not the owner,” Arroyo added.
Guingona said the basis for the recommendation could be summed up with three words: Luma, Lamang, and Labag.
"Luma ang helicopters, Lamang ang nagbenta ng helicopters, Labag sa batas ang ginawang bentahan," he said.
Two of the three helicopters that the PNP bought were second-hand when the contract required new units.
He added the deal cheated the Filipino people of around P62.7 million since the PNP paid brand-new prices for the helicopters.
"Jose Miguel Arroyo conspired with private individuals and officers of the Philippine National Police," Guingona charged, adding this violated anti-graft laws and the government procurement law.
The committee also asked Ombudsman to investigate Negros Occidental Representative Ignacio Arroyo for allegedly covering up for Mike Arroyo.
However, Ignacio Arroyo described the Senate hearings and press conferences regarding the chopper mess as "a classic case of trial by publicity."
"The Senate hearing was just for a show. Everyone knew who they were trying to link and pin down, just like every other case they are inventing against the Arroyos," the lawmaker said in a press statement.
He earlier defended his brother from the controversy. He said the former First Gentleman was not connected to the Arroyo-owned firm LTA Incorporated when the helicopters were leased to them.
The Negros Occidental lawmaker said he is hoping that the Ombudsman will not be pressured nor influenced by the Senate panel’s actions since its reports is merely recommendatory.
"It seems our co-equal branch is not just a lawmaking body anymore but has likewise taken the role of a fiscal (prosecutor) and Judge at the same time," he said.
The former First Gentleman, meanwhile, found it coincidental that the Senate panel came out with its recommendations as Presidential Political Adviser Ronald Llamas is being heavily criticized by the public for owning five firearms.
"Just when the issue involving Secretary Llamas is burning the headlines, here comes another round of Arroyo bashing. This does not come as a shock – this has been their finding even before they started the ‘probe’," Arroyo added.
For his part, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said the House leadership will leave it to the proper body to decide on the fate of his colleague.
"Here in the House of Representatives, what is important is what you do during this Congress and not what you did in the previous years," he told reporters in a press conference.
Also on Thursday, Guingona recommended amendments to Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, providing stiffer penalties for graft by increasing years of imprisonment following the anomalous chopper deal.
Earlier, Senator Panfilo Lacson and Guingona filed a resolution to have the Senate look into the allegedly anomalous purchase.
The resolution said the PNP bought three Robinson Raven light operational helicopters (LPOHs) from Manila Aerospace Products Trading Corp. in 2009.
The two senators said two of the three helicopters, which were supposed to be new, had been flying since 2004 based on their flight logs.
Guingona and Lacson said the helicopters, one "equipped" and two standard helicopters, did not conform to the requirements for the contract, which was for three equipped helicopters.
The resolution said the purchase was approved by then PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa. (Kathrina Alvarez/Jonathan de Santos/Sunnex)