Senator Lacson: Difficult for Mike Arroyo to admit or deny owning choppers
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo would find it difficult to admit or deny owning the two Robinson R-44 Raven is in the hangar of Lionair Inc.
Admitting ownership would mean former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may be charged with perjury for failing to include the five helicopters in her annual statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN), Lacson said.
If Mike Arroyo denies ownership, authorities can seize the two units still in Lionair’s hangar in Pasay City and transfer the ownership to the PNP.
After all, Archibald Po already expressed willingness to surrender the two remaining helicopters allegedly owned by Arroyo provided no legal problems would arise.
“Why were (all) the helicopters not declared in the SALN of GMA (a popular reference to the former President)?” Lacson asked in an ambush interview.
“If (Arroyo) admits ownership, then the helicopters should have been reflected in the SALN. What if they were not listed,” the senator added.
Lacson said Mike Arroyo was in a dilemma. “Should he admit, so he can assert ownership? But that would mean his wife would be accused of perjury. He will have to weigh his options.”
If Arroyo denies he owns the two choppers still in Lionair’s hangar, Po can claim these as his since ownership rests with Lionair as per its legal papers, according to Lacson.
Po told senators the other day that the registration papers issued by the Air Transportation Office showed the transfer of ownership from Asia Spirit, which imported the aircraft, to his company.
Po said what Arroyo was holding were “blank deeds of sale” as proof of ownership.
The former first gentleman has denied through his lawyer repeatedly that he does not own the chopper sold to the Philippine National Police.
A Catholic bishop on Wednesday urged Mike Arroyo to face the Senate inquiry into the sale of two used helicopters that were passed off as brand new to the PNP.
But the opposition in the House of Representatives urged those with evidence to just file a case against Arroyo instead of trying him and former President Arroyo by publicity.
“If there is evidence that a crime was committed, then the venue for this is not Congress or the media but the proper judicial forum,” House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman said in a press conference.
Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez said Arroyo “should attend as a citizen and he should be cooperative” if invited to a Senate hearing.
Iñiguez, the head of the public affairs committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, said a no-show at the inquiry of the Senate blue ribbon committee would only fuel public suspicions [of wrongdoing].
Senators looking into the so-called chopper scam were “inviting” Arroyo to the hearing since his name was cited several times by Po, the owner of Lionair Inc., and Hilario de Vera, the president of Manila Aerospace Products Trading Corp. (Maptra), in their testimonies before the blue ribbon committee on Tuesday.
Lionair and Maptra were the suppliers of the three helicopters—two preowned and one brand new—that were sold to the PNP in 2009 for P105 million.
Po and De Vera said Arroyo owned two of the three choppers acquired by the PNP. The two Arroyo-owned helicopters sold to the PNP were among the five choppers bought by Arroyo for the campaign of his wife in the 2004 presidential election, according to Po.
“The Senate has the right to issue an invitation to anyone, [so] if (Arroyo) will be sent an invitation, he should come,” Iñiguez said.
The bishop said that since testimonies were slowly coming out, the government must carefully look into the sale “so we can get to the bottom of it.”
Iñiguez also underscored the importance of conducting a genuine investigation but reminded authorities and the public not to pass judgment easily on personalities being pointed as the culprits in the alleged scam.
“We are calling on [Arroyo] for him to act within his powers to prove, whether true or not, these things being hurled against him,” the bishop said.
Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay said the Arroyo family was a victim of a media campaign to shame and paint them as the villains.
“That the Aquino administration cannot yet file a single case against the Arroyos has driven the Palace and its allies to air their accusations in the media, using position and public resources to paint the Arroyos ‘guilty’ in the people’s minds,” Magsaysay said.
It is the PNP that should explain the purchase of the helicopters, according to Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez.
“Caveat emptor (Latin for ‘Let the buyer beware’),” Suarez said. “Since the PNP bought it, it is the one at fault.”
Of the five choppers reportedly acquired by Arroyo in 2004, two are languishing in a hangar. One had crashed.
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