Thirteen of the 20 Philippine National Police (PNP) officials charged with graft in connection with the PNP’s purchase of two secondhand helicopters owned by then First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo in 2009 remain in active service, the PNP said on Thursday.
One of the two most senior active officials, Chief Superintendent Herold Ubalde, who formerly headed the PNP’s Legal Service, had taken a voluntary leave since the start of the investigation, said the PNP spokesperson, Senior Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr.
“He opted to voluntarily leave his position as director of the Legal Service when the hearings started. He is now in the holding group of the PNP,” Cerbo said of Ubalde.
The other most senior official, Chief Superintendent Luis Saligumba, remains in the service as director of the Police National Training Institute at Camp Vicente Lim, Cerbo added.
“Most of the others have retired, while all the rest are still in service and [continue] to hold their positions while the investigation relative to the procurement of the choppers is ongoing,” he said.
The Office of the Ombudsman filed a graft charge against Arroyo in the Sandiganbayan, accusing him of selling his two Raven I helicopters to the PNP and passing them off as brand new.
Also charged were the 20 PNP officials, led by then Director General Jesus Verzosa and Hilario de Vera, president of Manila Aerospace Products Trading Corp. (Maptra), a PNP supplier. The graft charge is bailable, at P30,000 for each of the accused.
They were accused of violating the antigraft law, which penalizes acts of public officials that cause undue injury to any party or give a private party any unwarranted benefits or advantage.
Seven other PNP officials were also charged with falsification of public documents for claiming that the two helicopters sold to the police had conformed to specifications set by the National Police Commission.
“The PNP is waiting for any order or guidelines from the Ombudsman on this issue … . The stand of the PNP is [to] cooperate to make the dispensation of justice smooth and fast,” Cerbo said.
He said the Ombudsman would usually issue preventive suspensions on active officials in similar cases, and that the PNP would comply if given such orders.
Interior Secretary Jesse M. Robredo earlier welcomed the filing of the graft case against Arroyo and the PNP officials, which he said sent a message to the PNP that the present administration was bent on reforming the organization and correcting its past mistakes.