MANILA, Philippines–Jose Miguel Arroyo, husband of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, looked relaxed and fit on Tuesday when he appeared at the Sandiganbayan, where he pleaded not guilty to charges he owned the choppers that were sold and passed off as brand new to the Philippine National Police.
Arroyo’s arraignment at the Sandiganbayan second division was among the conditions set by the court, which allowed him to travel to Hong Kong and Japan from Feb. 3-10 this year.
Arroyo is going to Japan to hold a meeting with a group of overseas Filipino workers and go to Hong Kong to attend the corporate planning seminar of LTA Inc., his family’s holding company named after his mother, Lourdes T. Arroyo.
Aside from his arraignment and travel bond, Arroyo also accepted the court’s demands to waive his right to seek determination of probable cause and his right to quash the information that could further delay the case. “I believe that these are the only downside(s),” said Arroyo.
Arroyo was upbeat throughout the entire proceedings as he gamely spoke with reporters covering the event.
“I’m pleased with the court’s decision, it even agreed to lower the travel bond to P90,000,” said Arroyo in an interview shortly after the hearing. “I’m feeling much better now, I’ve suffered no relapse from my heart problem of five years ago. I’m also optimistic …”
The Office of the Ombudsman has charged Arroyo, along with 20 PNP officials led by former Director General Jesus Verzosa, for the purchase of two, secondhand Robinson R44 Raven I helicopters in 2009 through a negotiated contract with Maptra. The case is anchored on the testimony of Archibald Po, owner of Lionair Inc., who claimed that Arroyo was the true owner of the helicopters, including giving Arroyo $700,000 at his family’s LTA Building in Makati City.
Lionair is the exclusive Philippine distributor of Robinson helicopters while Maptra was its designated agent in the PNP auction.
Arroyo expressed optimism that the courts would eventually dismiss all the charges filed against him and his wife, incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was in hospital detention after being charged with plunder for allegedly diverting charity funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office during her term.
“I think that these cases are turning out to be nothing but persecution against our family and I am confident about our chances,” said Arroyo.
Arroyo noted that in the PCSO case, the prosecutors could not provide evidence that his wife violated any rule when she signed the release of the funds or used the funds for personal gain. He said this was the same dilemma facing the prosecutors in the second-hand helicopters as they have to prove that he did not divest from LTA during the Arroyo administration and that he had something to do with the Maptra’s sale of the helicopters to the PNP. “Even if assuming that the helicopters were sold by LTA to Maptra, it does not matter to the seller if the buyer decides to sell them,” said Arroyo.
Arroyo said that while his health has improved, he could not say the same of his wife who continued to suffer from “acute pain in her neck.”
“She’s coping but she is having a difficult time,” said Arroyo.