Who’s who in PNP’s raps sheet over choppers
The criminal charges are almost ready, but will they include Jose Miguel Arroyo?
Five Senate blue ribbon committee hearings later, the Philippine National Police is nearly done with its own investigation of its purchase of three helicopters in 2009 for P105 million.
Two of the choppers, which were said to be previously owned by the husband of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, were passed off as brand-new when these were sold to the PNP.
Citing possible “conspiracy,” Director Samuel Pagdilao of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group on Thursday promised to press criminal charges against police officials and several civilians, led by Lionair Inc. owner Archibald Po, by next week.
Appearing with Pagdilao at Thursday’s hearing, PNP Director General Raul Bacalzo said a preliminary fact-finding report earlier recommended further criminal investigation of 27 police officers in connection with the sale.
The mention of “civilians” appeared to have stirred up Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who earlier tagged Arroyo as the real owner of the two used choppers.
“And Mike Arroyo is not included in the 27 (officers), I suppose?” Lacson asked Bacalzo, who replied: “This report is based only on the records of the PNP. It doesn’t include yet whatever was unraveled in this hearing.”
Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the blue ribbon committee, said then PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa should be included in the criminal charges, noting that he signed the PNP contract with Manila Aerospace Products Trading Corp. (Maptra), “an entity that was not legally capacitated to do so at that time.” Maptra was an accredited supplier of the PNP.
“Clearly, he had the responsibility and he would have to be accountable,” Guingona later told reporters.
Sen. Sergio Osmeña III said former Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno should also face charges for “command responsibility.”
Puno then headed the National Police Commission (Napolcom), which released a resolution identifying specifications for the choppers.
“He had the type of command responsibility because he was the chair of the Napolcom and also [the head of] the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government),” he said.
Pagdilao said the CIDG would file a case against Po and the owners of Maptra, which represented Lionair in the chopper deal. He declined to name the other officials to be included in the case.
“I would like to assure this honorable committee that there is no foot-dragging in this investigation,” Pagdilao said. “We’ve been judiciously conducting our avowed duty to get to the bottom of this investigation for the purpose of eventually filing a criminal case.”
Faced with the looming criminal charges, senior police officials on Thursday pinned the blame on low-ranking officers tapped to inspect the choppers that were delivered to the PNP in 2009.
Director George Piano, who headed the inspection committee for purchase, pointed to the pilots belonging to the inspection team for allegedly failing to disclose that two of the three purchased helicopters were secondhand.
Piano later told senators that the head of the Special Action Force (SAF) Air Unit, which was to receive the helicopters, should have done so as well. The SAF was then headed by Director Leocadio Santiago.
At this point, Guingona lost his cool and berated Piano. “There is too much finger-pointing!” he said.
Director Luizo Ticman, head of the committee that negotiated the purchase, agreed with Piano that members of the inspection team were at fault. Lacson later pointed out that low-ranking officials were being left to hold the bag.
“It’s very, very apparent from the way everybody is answering, from the way everybody is finger-pointing, that you are a disjointed, segmented, uncoordinated agency,” Guingona told PNP officials. “Very, very disappointing.”
Several witnesses, including Po, claimed that the two secondhand helicopters sold to the PNP were part of the five choppers bought by Arroyo in 2004 for his wife’s campaign in the presidential election.
Arroyo denied owning the helicopters. His younger brother, Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo, recently claimed that LTA Inc., a company owned by the Arroyos, merely rented the aircraft for two months in 2004.
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