14 cops in Mike Arroyo choppers scam ordered firedBy Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The 14 police officials, who were charged with graft, along with former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, in connection with the sale to the Philippine National Police (PNP) of used helicopters that were passed off as brand new, are not only facing court cases but also the loss of their jobs.
Apart from filing charges against them in the Sandiganbayan, the Office of the Ombudsman ordered them dismissed from the service, had their retirement benefits forfeited and disqualified them from holding any public office.
The Ombudsman said the police officials were guilty of serious dishonesty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service for their role in the sale of two secondhand helicopters to the PNP.
The Ombudsman also said that if the police officials had retired or resigned, the corresponding penalty should instead be a fine equivalent to one year of their salaries, in addition to the forfeiture of retirement benefits and disqualification from public office.
Arroyo owned the two helicopters, part of the five Robinson R44 Raven I helicopters he allegedly bought in 2003 for the campaign of his wife, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in the 2004 presidential election.
The two used helicopters and a brand-new Raven II helicopter were sold to the PNP for P104.9 million in 2009.
Ordered dismissed from office were Directors Leocadio Santiago Jr. and George Piano; Superintendents Ermilando Villafuerte and Roman Loreto; Chief Superintendents Herold Ubalde and Luis Saligumba; Senior Superintendents Job Antonio, Edgar Paatan, Mansue Lukban and Claudio Gaspar Jr.; Chief Inspector Maria Josefina Recometa; Senior Police Officer 3 Ma. Linda Padojinog; Police Officer 3 Avensuel Dy; and nonuniformed personnel Ruben Gongona.
Six other PNP personnel were found guilty of simple neglect of duty and given the penalty of suspension from the service for six months without pay. If they are no longer in office, the corresponding penalty is a fine equivalent to six months salary.
The officers were Senior Superintendent Joel Crisostomo Garcia, Senior Police Officer 3 Jorge Gabiana, Police Officer 3 Dionisio Jimenez and nonuniformed personnel Erwin Chavarria, Emilia Aliling and Erwin Paul Maranan.
They were held administratively liable for signing an inspection report on the condition of the helicopters.
Puno, Razon off the hook
Those who got off the hook for any criminal liability were former Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno; former PNP Director General Avelino Razon; former Interior Undersecretary Oscar Valenzuela; National Police Commission (Napolcom) officers Conrado Sumanga Jr., Miguel Coronel and Celia Sanidad Leones; Senior Superintendents Joel Garcia and Lurimer Detran; Senior Police Officer 3 George Gabiana; Police Officer 3 Dionisio Jimenez; and nonuniformed personnel Erwin Chavarria, Emilia Aliling and Erwin Paul Maranan.
In clearing Puno, Razon and the other Napolcom officials, the Ombudsman found no basis to the claim that they had tailor-fit the specifications of the helicopters that they authorized the PNP to purchase to conform with the specifications of Arroyo’s helicopters.
It said the PNP had proceeded with the bidding, negotiations and award of the helicopters to Manila Aerospace Products Trading Corp. (Maptra) despite the latter’s failure to comply with the specifications prescribed by the Napolcom.
It further noted that Razon, Leones and Coronal had already retired from the service when the negotiations and award to Maptra took place.
Arroyo choppers’ owner
In finding Arroyo liable for graft and identifying him as the owner of the two secondhand helicopters, the Ombudsman said it was not convinced by his contention that he had already divested himself of any interest in LTA Inc.
Arroyo claimed that it was LTA, a firm owned by the Arroyos, which had advanced the money so that Lionair Inc. could acquire the Robinson helicopters. But long before this took place, he had divested himself of any interest in the company, he said.
The Ombudsman said Arroyo’s deed of assignment that transferred his shares of stock to Benito Araneta was not evidence of a valid transfer. It also said the transfer of the shares of stock was not mentioned in the books of LTA.
Cop pilot of Arroyos
It also noted the counteraffidavit of Superintendent Claudio Gaspar, who said he was assigned to the Office of the President in 2001 and had received instructions to fetch and ferry members of the President’s family to various destinations.
In ferrying the Arroyos, Gaspar used the Robinson R44 Raven helicopters that were owned and operated by Lionair, exclusive distributor of Robinson helicopters in the country. Lionair’s marketing agent in the bidding for helicopters in the PNP was Maptra.
A Lionair flight dispatcher, Domingo Lazo, said Arroyo got in touch with him in 2004 to lay down the procedures in the use of the helicopters.
The Ombudsman said these showed that it was Arroyo who owned the helicopters.
“If respondent [First Gentleman Arroyo] was not the owner of the helicopters, why is it that he and the members of his family were using the same and the pilot was a PNP officer detailed in the Office of the President?” the Ombudsman asked.
“Further, if LTA [had] leased the helicopters and FG had no more holdings in the said corporation at that time, why [were] FG and the members of his family using [these] helicopters?”
The Ombudsman also wondered why Arroyo had set the rules for using the aircraft if he did not own them.