Thursday, 04 August 2011 10:53
Former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo pushed the sale of two of his helicopters as brand new to the Philippine National Police, according to witnesses testifying before the Senate inquiry into the alleged overpriced and second-hand helicopters on Tuesday.
Archibald Po, president of Lionair Incorporated, said that he facilitated the purchase of five Robinson R44 Raven I helicopters for Arroyo in 2003.
“ln 2003, I was asked to meet with then First Gentleman [Jose] Miguel Arroyo and I did it at his LTA office. FG inquired about chartering helicopters from me and I told him there were no longer any helicopters available as they had all been loaned to Fernando Poe Jr., who was running for President against his wife, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” Po said as he read from his seven-page affidavit.
“I suggested to FG that the best thing for him was to buy his own helicopters. I offered to him the Robinson R44 Raven 1 helicopters, five units of which would be the price for just one European helicopter. FG then told me to go ahead, buy him  Robinson helicopters,” he said.
Po said that he was able to convince the former First Gentleman to purchase the five Robinson helicopters at agreed initial payment of US$ 95,000 each.
According to Po, the First Gentleman had even suggested to him to course through the importation of the helicopters to Po’s another company Asian Spirit, a locator at the Clark Export Processing Zone, to get free tax and other duties.
In 2006, however, Po said the former First Gentleman informed him that Arroyo was selling the five helicopters at 350,000 US dollars each.
”I commented that the price was on the high side for a pre-owned helicopter but FG said that was the price he was willing to sell the helicopters,” Po said.
In 2009, the Manila Aerospace Products Trading (MAPTRA), an accredited PNP supplier of helicopters, tendered a proposal to Po for their purchase of four pre-owned helicopters.
Po referred the proposal to FG who eventually agreed, ending up in the sale of two of his four helicopters as “brand new“ to the PNP. Po said one of the five helicopters crashed in 2007.
Hilario De Vera, president and general manager of MAPTRA, also read his own affidavit that corroborated the testimony of Po.
De Vera said he was forced to sell the pre-owned helicopters as brand new to the PNP after Po informed him about the order of the First Gentleman.
”Sinabi ko na sa iyo huwag kang mag-alala dahil kahit ano ideliver mo sa kanila, walang magtatanong at tatangapin yan kasi may order na sila galling kay FG kung ano dapat gawin. At alam ko kikita ka naman diyan sa dalawang pre-owned na Raven I kaya bigyan mo ako dyan ng 50 percent sa neto mo para sa extra effort ko naman dyan sa transaksyon,” (I told not worry because whatever you would deliver to them, nobody will question and they will accept it because they have order from FG on what to do. I know you will earn from these two pre-owned Raven I so you have to give me 50 percent from the net for my effort in this transaction,” De Vera said, quoting Po in one of their series of meetings.
De Vera said the two pre-owned helicopters, along with the real brand new chopper, were delivered and received by the PNP “without question or complaints after they inspected them.”
”I confirmed here that all what Mr. Archie Po said then were all true that nobody from the PNP will question on what I have delivered because they have instructions or order from FG,” De Vera said.
It was Senator Panfilo Lacson who exposed the anomalous purchase of the supposed three brand new light operational helicopters for P105 million intended for the special action force (SAF) of the PNP.
Po said the former First Gentleman called him up before facing the Senate inquiry but clarified that Arroyo did not stop him from appearing before the second Senate probe into the questionable acquisition of the PNP choppers.
”He just asked me what happened and there’s a long silence. We talked over the phone for only less than a minute,” Po said.
With the expose of Po and De Vera, Lacson asked the Senate blue ribbon committee chairman Teofisto Guingona Jr. to invite Arroyo and his accountant a certain Rowena del Rosario in the next Senate hearing. Guingona granted the request.
Earlier, Po asked the panel for protection from possible criminal liability that may be filed against him in exchange of his testimony.
Asked by senators, Po revealed that over 700,000 dollars or roughly P31 million have been personally delivered to the First Gentleman as payment for the two pre-owned helicopters. The brand new helicopter was sold for P42 million.
”Actually, the MAPTRA paid us P42 million with P31 million has been given and minute duties and taxes, we earned over P3 million for the sale of the helicopters,” Po said.
Another witness, Roselily Santos who is marketing director for government and military of MAPTRA, also showed up and confirmed the transactions pertaining to the purchase of the PNP choppers. Santos said the purchase order was signed by then PNP chief Jesus Versoza. (Jelly F. Musico -PNA/PIA9-BST)
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