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ON SECONDHAND HELICOPTERS CONTROVERSY

Senators reject Rep. Ignacio Arroyo’s claim

Want brod of former first gentleman Jose Miguel at Monday hearing

‘HE ASKED FOR IT.’ Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo is invited by the Senate to appear at Monday’s hearing on the used choppers’ controversy. “We didn’t mention his name. He was the one who joined this issue,” said Senator Panfilo Lacson, who also promised to present on Monday a new witness to prove that Ignacio was lying. AFP file photo

Senators on Tuesday rejected Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo’s account that the secondhand helicopters sold as brand new to the Philippine National Police had been “leased” to the family-owned company LTA Inc. and had not been owned by his brother, Jose Miguel Arroyo, the former first gentleman.

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the blue ribbon committee, said the committee would send a formal invitation on Thursday to the congressman to show up at the hearing on Monday.

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Addressing Ignacio, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said: “Be our guest.”

Lacson said Ignacio had asked for it.

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“We didn’t mention his name. He was the one who joined this issue,” the senator said.

Lacson, who earlier blamed the Arroyos for having to flee the country as a fugitive in the Dacer-Corbito double murder, said he would present a new witness on Monday to prove that Ignacio was lying.

“If he doesn’t want to appear (at the hearing), I will invite the person who will prove that he is lying on this issue of the helicopters,” Lacson said. “Not only that, that he is really a liar.”

Guingona, along with three other senators, did not mind that members of the House of Representatives were normally not asked to appear at Senate investigations as part of interparliamentary courtesy.

“Public interest is paramount over interparliamentary courtesy,” Guingona told reporters. “He is deemed to have waived it by coming out with these revelations. He has to explain.”

Lease agreement

Through his lawyer, Ignacio produced a copy of a lease agreement supposedly showing that Jose Miguel or Mike, husband of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, did not own the five helicopters, two of which, along with a new one, were sold to the PNP for P105 million in 2009.

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Ignacio said Lionair Inc. simply leased the choppers to LTA Inc., of which he was the president at the time, for two months in 2004.

In a statement read on Monday by his lawyer, Andresito Fornier, Ignacio said that when the lease agreement was signed with Lionair, his brother Mike was not part of LTA Inc.

Treatment in London

The congressman, who reportedly flew to London two weeks ago to seek treatment for his liver ailment, said Mike divested himself of his shares in LTA Inc. on March 15, 2001.

Mike reacquired shares in LTA Inc. in November 2010 and became its president, according to Fornier.

Witnesses, including Lionair owner Archibald Po, had testified before the blue ribbon committee that Mike had owned the two used choppers sold to the PNP.

Po said he sold five Robinson R-44 Raven I helicopters to Mike in late 2003 so the latter’s wife could use the aircraft for the 2004 presidential campaign.

Deed of assignment

The Lionair president said he was asked to sign a blank deed of assignment after Mike completed payments for the choppers.

Denying ownership of the five helicopters, Mike filed perjury charges against Po last week.

Mike, however, declined to appear before the Senate hearing last week, citing poor health.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada told reporters that Ignacio should appear at the hearing to prove that the helicopters were really his.

“Remember that he was the same person who owned up to the Jose Pidal (accounts) and even practiced the handwriting,” Estrada recalled, referring to the bank accounts where Mike allegedly illegally kept some P200 million in campaign contributions.

Papers debunking story

Sen. Francis Escudero said there were documents that would debunk the story that Ignacio “was trying to weave right now.”

“It’s not good that he admitted (that the choppers were leased) but he would not talk about it (in the Senate),” Escudero said. “And perhaps, he could not use his medical condition as an excuse.”

Lacson, who floated the Jose Pidal controversy in 2003, said: “Iggy Arroyo has developed the habit of rescuing big brother Mike but without much success.”

Lacson cited what he called discrepancies in the lease agreement supposedly signed between LTA Inc. and Lionair Inc.

Lacson pointed out that the agreement was notarized on March 16, 2004, but the residence certificate of Renato Sia, Lionair’s corporate secretary, was dated April 2, 2004.

“It was impossible for Sia to sign the agreement with his residence certificate number not available at the time of the signing of the document,” he said.

Lacson said the “most telling discrepancy” was that the supposed agreement had been signed on March 16 when “the second and third batches of helicopters arrived only on March 17 and 24.”

“So the choppers that were supposed to have been leased had not even entered the picture,” he said.

The two choppers with Serial Nos. 1372 and 1374 sold to the PNP were part of the second and third batches, according to Lacson’s office.

Signature

Lacson said Sia’s signature appeared only on the last page of the lease agreement “when standard procedure requires that all the pages be signed by all parties concerned, including the witnesses.”

“The so-called lease agreement does not bear the names and signatures of witnesses,” he added.

Retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz urged Ignacio to appear before the committee.

“If he [leased] the items concerned, I presume it’s logical for the Senate to call him and for him to speak before the Senate and show documentation to prove his claim,” Cruz said.

“If the brother claims that he is the owner (but he) does not appear in the Senate, it will favor more (the accusations) against his brother,” the prelate added.

Cruz said it was understandable that Ignacio should come to his brother’s rescue.

“He also accepted the fact that he was Jose Pidal. So, I think him saying that he is the principal in this helicopter issue is not surprising. And the first thing that came to my mind is brotherly concern,” Cruz said.

“This brotherly concern may have something to do with Mike (being) sick. It’s a way of helping but I still seem to believe that (Mike) was really the owner because there is no reason for those who testify in the Senate to lie,” he said.

He said the witnesses went against a previously powerful person. “Men of the lie, liars, would not do that,” Cruz added. With a report from Philip C. Tubeza

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TAGS: Archibald Po, former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, lawyer Andresito Fornier, Lionair Inc, Negros Occidental Rep Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo, Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Philippine National Police, secondhand helicopters, Sen. Francis Escudero, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, Senate hearing
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