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Choppers sold to PNP may have been used in 2004 poll cheating


By AYEE MACARAIG, Contributor

Pilots may have unknowingly flown military officials and operators who cheated to ensure the victory of former President Arroyo

MANILA, Philippines – Senators investigating the Philippine National Police’s anomalous purchase of helicopters allegedly owned by former first gentleman Mike Arroyo said the choppers may have been unwittingly used in election fraud in 2004.

Pilots at the hearing on the PNP chopper purchase controversy

In a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Thursday, Senator Jinggoy Estrada said information in the flight logs of the choppers matched the account of a witness in the Senate probe into the Hello Garci controversy.

Estrada questioned pilots Dennis Silvestre and Margarito Labastilla, who flew the former presidential spouse to Mindanao during and after the 2004 polls. Silvestre and Labastilla said their destinations included Tawi-Tawi, Marawi, General Santos City, Davao City, Cagayan de Oro City, and Bukidnon.

The lawmaker believes that in those trips, the pilots also unknowingly flew military officials and operators who cheated to ensure the victory of then presidential candidate Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.  (Read: Operation Gloria).

Estrada read from an affidavit of the witness, which Senator Panfilo Lacson lifted from the records of the Senate Defense Committee.

The affidavit said then President Arroyo met with election officers of Lanao del Sur who were willing to make her win by wide margins in exchange for money and because they got a phone call from then Commission on Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano to expect people who will come to them and give them money.

“So unwittingly, kayo ang naging piloto, naging involved na hindi niyo naman nalalaman. I’m sorry, I’m not blaming you for this, kayo ay inutusan lang ng mga nakakataas sa inyo. Kayo ay naging parte rin, nag-participate rin kayo sa dayaan nung nakaraang eleksyon,” Estrada told the pilots. (Unwittingly, you were the pilots. You were involved without your knowledge. I’m sorry, I’m not blaming you for this. You only got orders from the higher-ups. You became a part of this, you also participated in cheating in the past elections.)

Lacson also told the two, “Kayo lamang ‘yung naglipad ng mga makasalanang helicopter.” (You just flew the sinful helicopters.)

Silvestre said he remembers flying a military official to Marawi but he failed to identify him. He and Labastilla denied having flown Garcillano in any of their trips.

The former first gentleman is accused of ordering the overpriced sale of his two pre-owned choppers to the PNP in 2009, even if the supply contract required brand new units. He allegedly profited from the sale as each chopper was sold at a price at least $70,000 higher than that pegged for a five-year-old helicopter.

Arroyo snubbed the hearing citing medical reasons.

Payments in cold cash

Despite Arroyo’s denials that he owned the choppers, the marketing manager of aircraft distributor Lion Air Inc. testified that she received regular payments from Arroyo’s office LTA Inc. for the operational expenses of the helicopters.

Edith Solano-Juguan said she collected monthly payments from LTA in a span of seven years. She said Arroyo always paid in cash and never issued a check.

Senators noted that the cash payments were meant to avoid a paper trail.

Another witness, former Lion Air Inc. flight dispatcher Domingo Lazo, said Arroyo controlled the flight schedules of the helicopters, sending him instructions via text message.

“Ang natatandaan ko po lahat ng instruction, galing lahat sa kanya. Lahat po ng flight schedule, sino pasahero, saan pupunta, galing sa kanya. Ang pagkakasabi po sa akin ni Mr. Po, si FG po (ang) may-ari,” Lazo said.

Conspiracy to cover-up

Senators also uncovered various irregularities in the purchase of the choppers.

PNP Director General Raul Bacalzo said the members of the team that inspected the helicopters did not have the qualifications for the job, and only the pilots in the group were competent to conduct an inspection. The team did not report that the helicopters were secondhand.

Asked if he checked the flight logs of the choppers, the head of the inspection committee, Director George Piano, said it was beyond his duty to do so.

Former PNP Chief Jesus Versoza (Photo by Beth Frondoso)

Then PNP Director General Jesus Verzosa also refused to take responsibility for the sale, saying he did not know the choppers were pre-owned. He added that the PNP is a big organization and he expected the heads of departments to do their job.

The Commission on Audit also failed to detect the anomalies in the sale of the choppers.

“My God, to tell you the truth, the impression now in this particular case is that there is a conspiracy to cover up something here,” said a frustrated Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

‘Swak na swak’

Senator Franklin Drilon also questioned why the PNP changed the standard specifications of the National Police Commission (Napolcom) for the purchase of helicopters.

“It’s very clear they amended the specifications para swak na swak sa Raven I,” said Drilon. The choppers Arroyo allegedly owned are Raven I.

The Senate will invite then Napolcom Chairman and Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno to the next hearing. No date has been set for the continuation of the inquiry. – Newsbreak

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  1. Akala ko ba si Mike Arroyo told the press people when he arrived from Hongkong that he will prove his detractors wrong about the accusation that he owned the second hand helicopters which were sold to PNP as brand new. The Senate hearing was his opportunity to prove his detractors wrong, but he chose to ignore it for medical reasons. He should be energized upon seeing an opportunity to clear his name instead of being sick…..

    Ang akala talaga ng mga Arroyo, okay lang na paglakuan ng mga kasinungalingan itong mga Pinoy at Kongreso. Kung sabagay, itong si FG ay isang kastilang-intsik, kaya ganuon na lang ang pagyurak niya sa kakayahan ng mga Filipino na makaunawa. Sa tingin nila ang pandarambong sa kaban ng bayan ay maaaring ilihis sa pamamagitan ng mga paglulubid ng mga kasinungalian. Sa susunod ang medya ay hindi na dapat iniinterview itong mga Arroyo. Ang masamang hangin duon dapat lumalabas sa puwit. Pero itong mga Arroyo, iyong bad wind nila sa bibig lumalabas. Kalunos-lunos itong nangyayari sa pamilyang ito.. Bilang isang Kristiano, ako ay naaawa sa kanila imbes na magalit.

    Give credit also to the press people who keep interviewing these family and remain alive despite their being exposed to what could be an approximation of a gas chamber.

  2. I watched the live streaming of the inquiry.It is so obvious that fellow DeVera of Maptra, the selling agency, has been caught in a web of lies. First, insinuating that Po has a hand in the dealing with the PNP ( obviously to cover his backside!) and now he is embroiled with another seeming lie that he told Versoza’s man Mr. Robles that the Choppers were second hand. Just can’t trust DeVera’s words. He should have not been given immunity at all!! What a tangled web he wove when first he tried to deceive!!

    Kailagan di pagbiyan si FG “Piggy” sa kanyang mga palusot…si Mubarak nakahiga na at nakakulong tumitistigo parin. Iton Piggy lumalakad pa, di pinatitisgo. Ang senado nagpapaawa, kasi parehas silang lahi ng nakikinabang sa kaban ng bayan.
    Huwag pagbiyan si Piggy… Traposin ang palilitis, para sa tuwid na (isang)daan(piso).
    Ang economic exploitation at thief ay mas maraming napipirwiso o napapatay, kaysa sa isang crimen. Yung mga perang winaldas maraming buhay ang masalba, ngayong pinalusot maraming napatay.

  4. It is stupid for Mike Arroyo not to attend the senate investigation committee about the controversial helicopter that was sold as new to the PNP. Medical condition of Mike Arroyo is no barrier nor impediment for him not to attend the hearing. He can withstand the investigation and he should be provided with a cardiologist should he developed chest pain. He should be charged
    for contempt and should be put to jail. Arroyo can have millions of alibi but the fact is he wants to get away from his wickedness. We, Filipinos must get away from our being too much considerate and must be transparent at all times when it comes to public service. Corruption has no place in government and must be corrected and the rule of law must be prevail.

  5. 2 tao lang ang nagpahirap sa Pilipinas si FG at Gloria tapos ngayon me sakit pera pa rin ng taong bayan ang gamit me Pork baril pa eh bakit ganoon ang ang ating gobyerno dapat c Pinoy na ang mag final desisyon kulong agad, ang daming me sakit di alam kung saan kukuha ng pambayad sa hospital eh c gloria pera ng taong bayan ang ginagamit, sana naman magkaroon ng aksyon ang bagay na ito, salamat po.

  6. Bakit kaya si Verzosa ay tila hindi kasama sa aakusahan. Baka siya ang nagbulgar nitong anomalya na ito. Kaya may basbas na lusot siya.

  7. Bakit kaya ni Mike Arroyo isnabin ang senate inquiry? Kasi malamang marami diyan sa mga nagdadadaldal na mga senador ay tumatanggap pa rin ng pera sa mag asawang Arroyo. Bakit hindi nila kayang paharapin sa senado si Mike “Taba” Arroyo. Takot ba kayo o nabayaran na kayo. ha ha ha ha ha

    Tama na ang daldal. Kung may pinaninindigan ang mga akusasyon, aba eh sampahan na nang kaso at nang makulong na ang mga hayupak na yan. Ano ba yaaaaaaaaaaan! Matatapos na lang ang term ni P-Noy wala pang nakukulong. Susmaryosep!

    Pare pareho kayong mga kurap. Kaya walang nangyayari. Ang iniimbestigahan kurap, ang nag iimbestiga kurap. Ano ba yaaaaaaaan?

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