Roxas: I paid for private jet’s rent
HIS USE of a private jet on the campaign trail was “not a loan, not a favor, not a giveaway and not free,” said Liberal Party standard-bearer Mar Roxas.
Roxas said he paid for the use of the aircraft owned by his friend, mining magnate Francis Eric Gutierrez, adding that there was nothing improper or irregular about the arrangement.
“I paid for the use of those planes,” Roxas told reporters Tuesday in Silay, Negros Occidental.
Roxas also defended his friendship with Gutierrez, a nickel mine operator and owner of SR Metals Inc. (SRMI), saying he knew him to be a responsible mining operator.
“I know and am friends with Eric Gutierrez,” Roxas said. “To my knowledge, he is a winner in both international and local contests for his skillful management of his company. He is my friend—what’s wrong with that?” he said.
Gutierrez’s firms—listed as small-scale operations—were reportedly fined P7 million by the government in 2007 for overextraction of minerals.
Gutierrez is also a friend and business partner of Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, a part owner of SRMI which he chaired at one time. Erice is the political affairs chief and spokesperson of the Liberal Party.
Responding to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s accusation that he was using Gutierrez’s planes for free, Roxas said: “That’s foolishness.”
“I paid for the use of the plane and owe no debts for using it. Most importantly, what I used to pay for it was not stolen money,” the LP candidate said.
He said the other presidential aspirants should be asked to disclose their own flight arrangements.
“Since you asked me about the plane I’ve been using to go to different parts, I answered it. But what about the other candidates? Perhaps it’s good to ask them the same question,” Roxas said.
Sen. Chiz Escudero Tuesday accused Roxas of violating a Commission on Elections rule supposedly barring candidates from using planes owned by businessmen operating a franchise.
Allowed and legal?
“If Secretary Roxas has indeed admitted that (using Gutierrez’s planes), a good question to ask is if this is allowed and legal under the law: Can he borrow the jets or receive favors from a person who was granted a franchise or who was operating in a heavily regulated business? Because under Comelec rules, this is illegal,” Escudero told a press conference in Iloilo City.
However, his presidential running mate, Sen. Grace Poe, told the same forum that she herself has been using private jets to cover as much ground in the limited campaign time available.
“Let’s be realistic, we need these planes not only because of the sheer size of our country but also because of the heavy air traffic. We have to turn around several times just to wait our turn to land in an airport,” she said.
Poe assured the public that she would list down the companies or individuals who leased or lent her their jets in her statement of contributions and expenditures to be submitted after the elections.
“What I can guarantee is that these are all legitimate companies that are not involved in any irregularities, most especially in environment violations,” said Poe, in reference to the alleged mining violations faced by Gutierrez’s SRMI.