Mike Arroyo liable in helicopter scam
Hey, not so fast, Mike.
As Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was fighting her hospital arrest, her husband Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo on Wednesday found himself enmeshed in an explosive graft charge just as he had gotten off being implicated in the electoral sabotage case his wife had been charged with and was told that he could leave the country as he wished.
A fact-finding panel of the Office of the Ombudsman found the husband of the former President and now Pampanga representative liable for graft charges for the allegedly anomalous sale of helicopters to the Philippine National Police in 2009.
Also found liable for violation of the antigraft law were former Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno; former PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa; Manila Aerospace Products Trading Corp. president Hilario De Vera; and National Police Commission members Avelino Razon, Miguel Coronel and Celia Sanidad-Leones, Conrado Sumanga Jr., and 28 other PNP officers.
The panel’s findings would be subjected to preliminary investigation to be completed in 60 days as ordered by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, the agency said in a statement. The inquiry would determine whether there is probable cause to file the case in court for trial.
Graft not plunder
The PNP and the Senate blue ribbon committee had both filed complaints against Arroyo and the PNP officials in the Office of the Ombudsman. The PNP wanted them charged with plunder, while the Senate complaint wanted them charged with graft.
But Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan, the agency’s spokesperson, said, “There was no plunder involved in what the panel considered.”
The case stemmed from earlier revelations in the Senate that two Raven helicopters that the PNP purchased in 2009 belonged to the former First Gentleman, and were made to appear brand-new even though they were secondhand.
Apart from finding basis for the graft cases, the panel said 16 PNP officers should be charged with falsification, while 21 PNP officers should be charged with gross neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
Lionair’s Archibald Po and Renato Sia, who had alleged that Arroyo was the owner of the used helicopters, were not among those recommended charged even though they were named in the PNP complaint.
The panel’s report was submitted to Morales on Monday and was approved on Wednesday. It came after the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced it had removed Mike Arroyo from the immigration watch list, meaning he was free to travel anywhere he pleased. But now that his wife was under arrest, Mike Arroyo said he had no intention of traveling abroad.
On Wednesday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she would consider putting back Mike Arroyo on the watch list if the Ombudsman requested this.
Earlier, immigration officials, acting on orders from De Lima, prevented the former First Couple from leaving the country despite a Supreme Court temporary restraining order allowing their departure.
Before they could attempt to leave again, a Pasay City Regional Trial Court ordered the former President’s arrest for electoral sabotage.
Rafanan said the Ombudsman found 60 days to be a “reasonable” period for the completion of the probe, given the voluminous documents involved and the number of respondents in the case. Once the investigation is completed, it would be submitted to Morales for approval.
The fact-finding team’s members were Deputy Special Prosecutor John Turralba, Assistant Ombudsman Joselito Fangon, Director Maria Olivia Roxas, and graft investigation and prosecution officers Dennis Mendoza and John Zernan Sambajon.
On the other hand, the special panel of investigating prosecutors is composed of Directors Manuel Soriano, Omar Sagadal and Dennis Garcia. With a report from Marlon Ramos
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