Mike Arroyo seeks court's OK to travel to Japan, HK
MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) – The Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday filed before the Sandiganbayan graft charges against former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo and several others in relation to the alleged anomalous sale of helicopters to the Philippine National Police (PNP) in 2009.
Included in the charge sheet for violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Corrupt and Graft Practices Act are former PNP chief Jesus Verzosa, Manila Aerospace Products Trading Corp. (MAPTRA) President Hilario Bautista De Vera, and several high-ranking police officials.
The charges stemmed from the PNP’s irregular purchase of 2 units of Robinson R-44 Raven helicopter and a unit of Robinson Raven-2 helicopter that cost the government P104 million.
In the charge sheet, the Office of the Ombudsman said the respondents “willfully, unlawfully and criminally gave unwarranted benefits, advantage and preference to the accused Arroyo and De Vera.”
Also facing charges are Director General Luizo Cristobal Ticman, police directors Ronald Dulay Roderos, Romeo Hilomen, Leocaldio Santiago Jr., former police deputy director general Jefferson Soriano, Chief Supt. Herold Ubalde, Supt. Ermilando Villafuerte, Supt. Roman Loreto, director George Piano, Sr. Supt. Luis Saligumba, Supt. Job Antonio, Supt. Edgar Paatin, Sr. Supt. Mansue Nery Lukban, Supt. Claudio Gaspar Jr., and Sr. Supt. Larry Balcameda.
The Ombudsman, however, dismissed charges of graft and corruption filed against former Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo Puno, former DILG Assistant Secretary Oscar Valenzuela, former NAPOLCOM director Conrado Sumanga Jr., former PNP chief Avelino Razon Jr. and former NAPOLCOM commissioner Miguel Coronel over the helicopter deal.
Arroyo denounced the charge against him in connection with the PNP choppers.
In a statement, Arroyo told ABS-CBN: “I don’t see how the Ombudsman charged me. I was not a stockholder of LTA, Inc. since I had divested myself. Neither did I talk to the PNP or anyone else to influence the sale of the choppers. This is truly harassment and oppression of the highest order. The law is not followed anymore.”
Topacio: Graft charges show Ombudsman's bias
In an interview with ANC's Top Story, Arroyo's lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, said the charges filed against Mr. Arroyo were no longer surprising, saying it was part of a “pattern of prosecution” perpetrated by the Aquino administration.
“Hindi na kami nabigla dito. Again, this is part of the pernicious pattern of prosecution being perpetrated by the present administration. Ang nakakataka lang dito, we were able to show during the Senate hearings that Lion Air Incorporated at that time had nothing to do with the former First Gentleman. Secondly, ang mga choppers na sinasabing binenta sa ating kapulisan ay kahit kalian hindi nalagay sa pangalan ng ating Unang Ginoo,” he said.
Topacio also said in a statement that the filing of criminal graft charges shows the "partiality of the current Ombudsman" towards the Office of the President.
“The partiality of the current Ombudsman, and her servility towards the Executive, held up for the entire nation to see during the Impeachment Hearing, has again been demonstrated in this case," he said. "Truly, the Ombudsman never allows the truth to get in the way of filing charges against members of the Arroyo Family when the same has been ordered by the Palace."
'Mike no longer involved in LTA'
Topacio said Mr. Arroyo had already divested his shares in LTA Inc. way back in 2001, and was no longer involved in LTA Inc. when the helicopter deal was signed.
He added that "there are no documents showing that Atty. Arroyo ever owned any of the choppers sold to the Philippine National Police."
Topacio said only the testimony of Lion Air president Archibald Po linked Arroyo to the alleged scam, but that there is no corroborating evidence or document to back up Po’s claims.
“The only thing linking Atty. Arroyo to the chopper deal is the doubtful testimony of Mr. Archibald Po, unsupported by any other evidence – testimonial or documentary -- made under duress during the Senate Hearings regarding the so-called chopper deal, and which testimony is now subject of a complaint for perjury pending before the Department of Justice. Thus, the charges against Atty. Arroyo are as thin as the soup made from boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death, to paraphrase the late Abraham Lincoln," Topacio said.
“Sa ilalim ng rehimeng ito, wala naman tayong maaasahang parehas na labanan kaya naririto na naman tayo, we have another case against us,” he told ANC.
Mike Arroyo wants to go to Japan
Meantime, the Arroyo camp has confirmed that the former First Gentleman has asked the Sandiganbayan for permission to travel abroad.
The motion, which was filed yesterday, seeks the court's permission for Arroyo to travel to Japan for a speaking engagement from June 16 to 21.
Mr. Arroyo will then travel to Hong Kong on June 23 to attend to business concerns.
Topacio said his client’s Japan trip is no cause for alarm.
“Napatunayan na ng ating Unang Ginoo na whenever he travels, he has the intention to return katulad ng nangyari when he traveled to Japan,” he told ANC -- with reports from Anthony Taberna and RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News; ANC