Archibald Po may get immunity for chopper deal but not for tax evasion | Inquirer News

Archibald Po may get immunity for chopper deal but not for tax evasion

Good news and bad news for Archibald Po, the owner of Lionair Inc.

Senators are likely to support his request for immunity from criminal suit following his testimony linking former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo to the sale of old helicopters to the Philippine National Police.

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But he may be investigated for possible tax evasion since Lionair apparently did not report earnings from charter flights booked by Arroyo’s friends.

Before reading the contents of his affidavit on Tuesday, Po invoked Section 4 of the Witness Protection and Security Benefits Act allowing a witness in a legislative investigation immunity from criminal prosecution.

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Po admitted facilitating Arroyo’s purchase of five Robinson R44 Raven I helicopters which were delivered two months before the 2004 presidential election.

The businessman said former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo used the helicopters when she ran against several candidates, including Fernando Poe Jr.

One helicopter crashed during the campaign. Five years later, two of the remaining four helicopters were sold to the PNP. Po said several times during Tuesday’s hearing of the blue ribbon committee that Arroyo owned the choppers.

During the same hearing, Hilario de Vera of Manila Aerospace Products Trading Inc. (Maptra) said Po repeatedly dropped the name “FG” probably to mean First Gentleman (Mike Arroyo) when the businessman pressured him into selling two old choppers to the police.

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, the blue ribbon committee chair, and Sen. Franklin Drilon, finance committee chair, said that Po would likely be given a recommendation if he applied for inclusion in the government’s Witness Protection Program.

However, the two immediately clarified that this privilege did not include freedom from prosecution in any tax case stemming from Lionair’s failure to pay the proper taxes.

Enrile argument

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Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, in an impromptu press conference, cautioned that the Senate did not have the “authority to immunize any person from suit. I don’t know. I have to study that.”

Enrile argued during Tuesday’s hearing that if Po “was an instrumental tool to the effect that a crime was committed, (why) are we going to grant him immunity from suit? He might be an inducing party or indispensable in committing the crime.”

But Drilon said that in an informal caucus after the hearing, Enrile suggested that they ask Po “if he needs admission into the program for purposes of legal protection in terms of the statements he will make.”

CIDG probe

In Camp Crame, investigators probing the PNP’s purchase of secondhand choppers in 2009 are relying heavily on televised Senate hearings for clues about the controversy.

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) said it was “deferring” to the Senate proceedings and would just get documents and transcripts of testimonies of certain personalities linked to the deal instead of questioning them themselves.

This includes Arroyo and the suppliers who implicated him.

Director Samuel D. Pagdilao Jr., the head of CIDG, said whatever pieces of evidence turned in to the Senate, a “higher body,” would be useful to the agency in its investigation of officials linked to the P105-million transaction.

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TAGS: Archibald Po, former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, Juan Ponce Enrile, Lionair Inc, Philippine National Police (PNP), Senate investigation, Tax evasion, Used helicopters
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