Husband of detained bookkeeper asks Court of Appeals to free wife
The husband of a former bookkeeper of a company owned by the family of Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo on Tuesday asked the Court of Appeals to order the Senate to immediately release his wife from detention.
Rowena del Rosario was cited in contempt by senators and detained since Monday in the Senate building in Pasay City for telling “lies” before the blue ribbon committee looking into the sale of two secondhand helicopters to the Philippine National Police.
Witnesses said Arroyo owned the used helicopters that were sold as brand-new to the PNP in 2009, an accusation denied by the husband of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In a petition for habeas corpus, Rolly del Rosario accused members of the blue ribbon committee of going beyond their authority in ordering the arrest and detention of his wife.
“The rights of Mrs. Del Rosario as witness were plainly disregarded,” Rolly said in a petition filed by his lawyer Nunilo Marapao Jr.
“Wherefore, premises considered, petitioner respectfully prays that a writ of habeas corpus be issued commanding respondent, the Senate sergeant at arms, to produce the body of Mrs. Rowena del Rosario, before this honorable court,” said a portion of the petition.
Named respondents were Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senate Sergeant at Arms Jose Balajadia Jr.
Rolly asked the appellate court to “summon the respondents then and there to appear and to show cause of the detention of Mrs. Rowena del Rosario” and order her immediate release from the Office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms.
Told about the petition for habeas corpus, Sen. Franklin Drilon said: “We will respond accordingly and we are confident that our position can be defended.”
Part of strategy
Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said that detaining Rowena was part of a “strategy,” but said he was not “at liberty” to talk about it.
Twelve members of the blue ribbon committee ordered the arrest of Rowena, the LTA bookkeeper from 2000 to July this year, for allegedly refusing to tell the truth during the Senate inquiry into the sale of the used helicopters.
The senators said Rowena was stonewalling the inquiry by giving false testimony on facts regarding the ownership of the used helicopters which Mike purportedly owned.
Rowena told the committee on Monday that Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo (then LTA Inc. president, according to Rowena) paid at least P18 million in cash for the lease of helicopters from Lionair Inc., distributor of US-based Robinson Helicopter Inc.
She said the transactions in 2004 were not recorded in the books of LTA.
Her testimony supported the Arroyo brothers’ claim that Mike did not own the helicopters, contrary to other witnesses’ claim that the choppers were part of the five helicopters Mike bought for the presidential campaign of his wife in 2004.
Rolly said the senators “acted arbitrarily, unjustly, unfairly and unlawfully by venting their frustrations on an ordinary witness.”
He said the arrest of his wife “should be declared null and void because it violated her constitutional rights.”
“Clearly, the contempt, arrest and detention of Mrs. Del Rosario has no factual and legal basis. (Respondents) should be directed to produce Mrs. Del Rosario in court and to justify the continued restraint on her liberty,” the petition said.
Ignacio might just “rescue” Rowena by appearing at a Senate inquiry into the helicopter scandal, said Guingona, chair of the blue ribbon committee.
“That’s for him to accomplish,” Guingona told reporters at the Annabel’s restaurant in Quezon City.
Guingona said that Ignacio was in the best position to answer the senators’ questions over “discrepancies” of facts and figures in the lease agreement.
“He interfered in our investigation. He claimed he leased the choppers. Now that we’re investigating it, he refused to appear. If he feels bad, I can assure him he will be given all the chance to explain,” the senator said.
Rental, not sale
Ignacio recently claimed that it was he who signed a lease contract that allowed LTA to use the helicopters for two months in 2004.
The congressman, who is undergoing treatment in London for a liver ailment, however, had balked at attending the hearing because of what he called the senators’ “political agenda.”
Guingona said Del Rosario would continue to be detained at the Office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms unless she gave credible answers.
“She will be detained until the senators are satisfied that she’s not evading questions,” he said.
It was Sen. Panfilo Lacson who moved to cite Del Rosario in contempt after she claimed that the $500,000 that LTA wired to Robinson Helicopter Corp. was an advance rental for helicopters, and not as payment for helicopters being purchased by LTA. With a report from Christian V. Esguerra
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