Another owner seen in choppers’ deed of saleBy Cathy Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Expect Mike Arroyo’s lawyers to produce a deed of sale bearing the name of another person to show that the husband of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was not the owner of the two secondhand helicopters sold to the Philippine National Police, Sen. Franklin Drilon said on Sunday.
“Remember that Archibald Po was asked to sign a blank deed of sale. I suspect (the lawyers) would try to prove that he sold the helicopters to another corporation or another individual, say Juan de la Cruz,” Drilon said in an interview.
The senator said the Senate blue ribbon committee was preparing for this defense strategy.
“I will call the lawyer who notarized (the blank deed of sale) and ask him whether he knows Po. Because Po said he did not talk to any notary public (when the sale was made),” Drilon said.
Po, owner of Lionair Inc., claimed under oath that he sold five Robinson R-44 Raven I helicopters to Arroyo in late 2003 so that his wife can use these in her presidential campaign in 2004.
Po said that after Mike Arroyo completed payments for the choppers, he was asked to sign a blank deed of sale by the latter.
Arroyo has denied ownership of the helicopters and filed perjury charges against Po.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said two of the helicopters, then already 5 years old, were passed off as brand new and sold to the PNP in 2009.
Po said two other choppers were still in the Lionair hangar in Pasay City, while a fifth unit crashed at the height of the 2007 midterm elections.
Drilon refused to elaborate on how senators would confront Arroyo and his lawyers about the helicopters’ ownership before they were sold to the PNP.
“But how can you explain the blank deed of sale in the first place? And why else would Mr. Arroyo be brave enough to slap perjury charges against Po,” Drilon asked.
Responding to queries sent via SMS, Drilon said the blue ribbon panel had gathered enough “circumstantial evidence” to show that Arroyo was the real owner of the helicopters now with the PNP.
“Our investigation showed he paid for the hangar fees, for maintenance … If he does not own the units, why was he paying for these?” the senator asked.
Drilon also recalled the testimony given by Po’s subordinates in Lionair that also linked Arroyo to the helicopters.
Accountant Elvie Solano-Juguan, for example, claimed receiving as much as P1 million in cash for maintenance fees paid by Arroyo.
“Arroyo paid cash like he was just buying lanzones! But paying P1 million in cash is unusual, unless you really want to hide something,” Drilon said.
The senator also noted the statement of former Lionair dispatcher Domingo Lazo that he personally received instructions, sent through text messages by Arroyo, about flight schedules and the names of passengers allowed to use the helicopters from 2004 to 2009.
“And why were the police pilots saying that when they flew (the former First Family), they made landings or had takeoffs in Area 3 of Malacañang?” Drilon added.
The senator noted that details reported and documents submitted by Po were also strong indications of Arroyo’s ownership.
“Po’s employee Renato Sia mentioned that when Arroyo made the downpayment of $500,000 for the helicopters, the money was sent to Robinson Helicopter Co. (RHC) through telegraphic transfer funded by LTA Inc.,” Drilon said.
LTA Inc. is an Arroyo-owned company with main address at the LTA Building on Perea Street in Makati City.
“Rene Sia said there were two credit memos. After the down payment was made, Arroyo told Po to open a dollar account at the Unionbank branch in Richville, Alabang,” Drilon said.
“A credit memo means you transfer funds from one account to another of the same bank. The balance for the helicopters, around $700,000 was paid through credit memo to Po’s account and later transmitted to RHC,” the senator said.
“We can get documentary evidence from the bank to prove that the credit memos came from the LTA Inc. account and transferred to Po’s account. I asked Po to trace who ordered the credit memo of the same bank on Perea Street,” he added.
Drilon said all these circumstances would show that Arroyo indeed owned the helicopters. “That’s why we challenge him, if he denies ownership, to accomplish an affidavit holding Archibald Po and Lionair free and harmless from any liability if he donates (the two) choppers (still in the Pasay hangar) to the PNP,” he said.
Puno to be invited
Also yesterday, Drilon said the blue ribbon committee would invite former Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno as chair of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) and other officials who in 2008 authorized changes in the specifications of the helicopters to be purchased by the PNP.
“The Napolcom should explain why the specifications were changed so that only Mike Arroyo’s helicopters qualified (in the bidding process),” the senator said.
“In the first place, Napolcom has no technical expertise to impose technical specifications. These details should come from the end-user, which is the PNP,” he added.