Supreme Court of the Philippines

Graft charges against Mike Arroyo for anomalous chopper deal ordered dropped by SC

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Graft charges against Mike Arroyo for anomalous chopper deal ordered dropped by SC

HIGHEST COURT. File photo of the Supreme Court of the Philippines.


The Supreme Court says evidence gathered by the Ombudsman did not show how Arroyo connived with accused public officers in the 2009 sale of second-hand choppers to the police

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the Sandiganbayan to drop the graft charges against former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo for his alleged involvement in the sale of second-hand choppers to the Philippine National Police (PNP) in 2009.

The latest decision from the Court’s Special Third Division reverses its earlier ruling in January 2020 where it agreed with the Office of the Ombudsman’s findings that there was probable cause to charge Arroyo with graft. 

With this latest development, the Court effectively granted Arroyo’s motion for reconsideration, saying there was “grave abuse” on the part of the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan when it found probable cause to try Arroyo for graft. 

In a 19-page resolution penned in December 2021 by now-retired Justice Rosemarie Carandang, the SC said evidence gathered by the Ombudsman did not show how Arroyo connived with accused public officers. 

It cited the testimony of Manila Aerospace Products Trading Corporation (MAPTRA) president Hilario “Larry” De Vera, who claimed he did not personally know Arroyo. De Vera is among respondents in the complaint, along with Arroyo’s brother Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo and several PNP officials. 

“The evidence the prosecution adduced to substantiate its claim of conspiracy is insufficient to maintain a reasonable belief that Arroyo is probably guilty of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019. The element of conspiracy with a public officer was not established,” the SC said, referring to Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Chopper deal

Arroyo had previously been accused of taking part in a sale to the PNP of two pre-owned helicopters and one brand new helicopter, despite requirements to buy only new helicopters. The choppers had been purchased from MAPTRA. 

An investigation by the Ombudsman found that two of the choppers – declared and priced to be brand new – were secondhand, and pre-owned by Arroyo. Arroyo denied this, saying he had no connection to MAPTRA. 

Arroyo claimed it was the firm LTA Inc. (Lourdes T Arroyo), through his late brother Iggy, which transacted with Archibald Po of Lionair Inc. and Asian Spirit Inc. to advance funds so that Po’s Lionair could purchase five choppers from its manufacturer Robinsons Helicopter Company (RHC). He likewise added that he divested from LTA even before the choppers were bought from RHC. 

The Ombudsman, however, was unconvinced that Arroyo divested himself of any interest in LTA before the choppers were purchased. 

‘Grave abuse’

In its latest decision, the SC found fault with the Sandiganbayan, saying it should not assume that LTA and Arroyo were the same. 

The Court said the Sandiganbayan should have gone beyond the Ombudsman’s resolution to determine a link between Arroyo that would prove he conspired with other respondents. 

“There is simply no overt act that could be attributed to Arroyo showing that he conspired with any of the respondent public officers,” the SC said.         

The SC added that while it was “mindful” that the Court was not a trier of facts, “after a judicial review of the case, the Court finds that the OMB has grossly misappreciated the attendant and clear facts in a manner that is tantamount to grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.” –

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