MANILA (Mabuhay) – The Philippine National Police (PNP) will set aside P100 million next year to repair two choppers which were supposedly anomalously procured in 2009.
At a Senate budget hearing Monday, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas II yielded to senators’ request to make these controversial Robinson R44 Raven 1 helicopters airworthy again.
“These two assets that are not useable can be made useable with some engine repairs… We will submit what items can be cut so that the helicopters can be repaired,” Roxas said during the budget hearing.
Before this, Senate President Franklin Drilon prodded Roxas and National Police chief Director General Alan Purisima to do something so that these choppers do not lie idle while the courts resolve the legal questions on the chopper deal.
“If you make legal representation with the Ombudsman, the Ombudsman can make a legal representation with the courts. I am sure the use of this evidence of the crime will be permitted,” Drilon said.
Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito also called on the DILG and the PNP to utilize the controversial choppers so they can “respond immediately” to emergency situations, especially during natural calamities.
Purisima explained that the Ombudsman has “not allowed” the use of the choppers since last year when charges were filed against several personalities, including former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, in connection with the allegedly anomalous helicopter deal.
Roxas said his agency will coordinate with the Ombudsman so that the repair and the use of the chopper will be allowed as soon as possible.
In June last year, Mr. Arroyo was charged with graft by the Office of the Ombudsman along with 19 PNP officials for supposedly causing “undue injury” amounting to P34.6 million to the government when second-hand choppers were sold to the PNP as brand new almost four years ago.
Last January, Mr. Arroyo pleaded not guilty to these graft charges.
In July 2009, the PNP purchased the two helicopters from the Manila Aerospace Trading Corporation (MAPTRA). The choppers were supplied to the firm by Lionair Inc., supposedly acting on Mr. Arroyo’s orders.
During Senate probes last year, several witnesses – including Lionair president Archibald Po – testified that Mr. Arroyo was the real owner of the second-hand choppers sold as brand new to the PNP. The former First Gentleman has repeatedly denied this allegation.
Mr. Arroyo’s brother, the late Rep. Ignacio Arroyo Jr., also defended the former First Gentleman by saying that the choppers were only leased from Lionair Inc.
Several witnesses during the Senate probe, however, challenged the veracity of the supposed lease agreement between Lionair and Mr. Arroyo’s family firm, LTA Inc. (MNS)