Chopper scam: Mike Arroyo, 21 others sued

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(UPDATED) The Ombudsman files graft charges vs 22 people led by Mike Arroyo, businessman Hilario de Vera, and ex-PNP chief Jesus Verzosa over the sale of second-hand choppers to the Philippine National Police

GRAFT CASE. The Ombudsman sues former First Gentleman Jose Miguel 'Mike' Arroyo, along with 21 others, for an alleged chopper scam.

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Ombudsman on Wednesday, June 6, filed graft charges before the Sandiganbayan against Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, former National Police chief Jesus Verzosa, a businessman, and 19 retired and active police officers over the sale of second-hand choppers to the Philippine National Police.

Initial reports from the Sandiganbayan said the basis for the graft case was a probe conducted by the Ombudsman on the 2009 and 2010 sale to the PNP of two second-hand helicopters priced as brand new. The deal cost the PNP P34.63 million.

These Robinson choppers turned out to have been previously owned by Mr Arroyo, husband of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, according to the Ombudsman probe.

It’s the second graft case filed against Mr Arroyo before the Sandiganbayan. He is also facing a graft case in connection with the botched NBN-ZTE government computerization deal under the Arroyo government.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales approved the indictments on June 1, 2012 based on the recommendations of Assistant Special Prosecutors Omar L. Sagadal and Manuel T. Soriano.

Edna Batacan, Arroyo’s lawyer, said they were surprised by the filing of the case since they have not received a copy of the Ombudsman’s final findings on the matter.

Dropped from the original complaint was former Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno.

In January, Mr Arroyo asked the Office of the Ombudsman to dismiss the complaint against him. (Mr Arroyo has asked for permission to leave for Japan on June 16.)

He claimed that he had no part in the deal, and that his family corporation merely lent money to Lionair, which sold the helicopters to the PNP.

Also charged were Manila Aerospace Products Trading Corp (Maptra) president Hilario de Vera, former Deputy Director General for Operations Jefferson P. Soriano, PNP Director for Logistics and negotiation committee chairman Luizo C. Ticman, Director for Research and Development Ronald D. Roderos, Director for Comptrollership Romeo C. Hilomen, Director for the PNP Special Action Force Leocadio S. Santiago Jr, Director for Legal Service Herold G. Ubalde and Director for Logistics Support Service George Q. Piano.
Other co-defendants include National Headquarters-Bids and Awards Committee members Superintendents Ermilando O. Villafuerte and Roman E. Loreto; and Sr. Supts. Luis L. Saligumba, Job Nolan D. Antonio and Edgar B. Pataan; Sr. Supt. Mansue N. Lukban, Chief Insp. Maria Josefina V. Recometa, Supt. Claudio Gaspar Jr, Sr. Supt. Larry D. Balmaceda, SPO3 Ma. Linda A. Padojinog, PO3 Avensuel G. Dy and private respondent Ruben S. Gongona, bids and awards committee member.

Arroyo’s defense

Mr Arroyo had argued that the so-called “chopper deal” started on Dec 11, 2003, when his family corporation LTA Inc (Lourdes T Arroyo) made an initial deposit of US$500,000 to Robinson Helicopter Company via electronic transfer.

He submitted a 30-page counter affidavit declaring that he had already assigned on March 15, 2001 his 998,980 shares in LTA in favor of Benito Araneta.

Mr Arroyo claimed it was the LTA that lent US$500,000 to Lionair’s Archibald Po under an “advanced lease scheme.”

Lionair sells and rents out helicopters in the Philippines. Out of the 5 Robinson choppers acquired by Lionair, two were eventually sold to the PNP Special Action Force in 2009.

“The fact remains that the five helicopters purchased by Lionair from RHC, including the two units eventually sold to the Philippine National Police, belonged to Mr Po’s Lionair or Asian Spirit and that they were never owned by me or LTA,” the respondent explained.

“The truth is that I never paid any money to Mr Po or Lionair and I had no part in his acquisition of the five helicopters from Robinson Helicopter Corp. It was LTA, a corporation with a distinct and separate juridical personality, thru its president, Mr Ignacio T. Arroyo, who transacted with Mr Po for the advancement of money…,” he said.

Last year, Po told the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that Mr Arroyo owned the choppers. –

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