14 PNP men axed over helicopters
By Reinir Padua and Cecille Suerte Felipe (The Philippine Star)
MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal from the service of 14 Philippine National Police (PNP) officials and personnel, four of them generals, for the allegedly fraudulent purchase of three used helicopters from former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.
In a 143-page joint resolution approved on June 1, the Ombudsman also suspended for six months without pay six police officers charged with graft before the Sandiganbayan.
Found administratively liable for “serious dishonesty and conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service” and ordered dismissed from the service were Directors Leocadio Santiago Jr. and George Piano; Chief Superintendents Herold Ubalde and Luis Saligumba; Senior Superintendents Job Nolan Antonio, Edgar Paatan, Mansue Lukban, and Claudio Gaspar Jr.; Superintendents Ermilando Villafuerte and Roman Loreto; Chief Inspector Maria Josefina Recometa; SPO3 Ma. Linda Padojinog; PO3 Avensuel Dy; and Non-Uniformed Personnel Ruben Gongona.
In a statement, the Office of the Ombudsman led by Conchita Carpio-Morales said the 14 were meted the penalty of dismissal from the service, as well as accessory penalties of forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification to hold public office.
A fine equivalent to one-year salary is imposed in addition to the accessory penalties, the Ombudsman said.
Found liable for “Simple Neglect of Duty”and ordered suspended for six months without pay were Senior Superintendent Joel Crisostomo Garcia, SPO3 Jorge Gabiana, PO3 Dionisio Jimenez, NUPs Erwin Chavarria, Emilia Aliling, and Erwin Paul Maranan.
Also charged before the Sandiganbayan for graft were Arroyo and former PNP chief Director General Jesus Verzosa, among others.
Also indicted was Hilario de Vera, president of the PNP supplier Manila Aerospace Products Trading Corp. (Maptra).
The former presidential spouse and the others were accused of conspiring in the alleged anomalous sale of three second-hand choppers passed off as new to the PNP.
More than P104 million was involved in the transactions done separately in 2009 and 2010.
Graft investigators said Maptra had no technical and financial eligibility to undertake the multi-million-peso supply contract in 2009 because its previous biggest deal was only worth P15.3 million.
The PNP bought two standard Robinson R44 Raven I helicopters and one fully equipped Robinson R44 Raven II helicopter through negotiated procurement from Maptra.
The Office of the Ombudsman found out that the two Raven I helicopters offered by Maptra were not brand new and did not conform to the specifications on endurance and ventilating system that the PNP first set when it sought to buy helicopters.
Meanwhile, PNP spokesman Senior Superintendent Generoso Cerbo Jr. said seven of the 20 police officers charged before the Sandiganbayan had already retired from the service, including Verzosa.
Aside from Verzosa, the other retired ranking police officers implicated in the anomaly and charged were Deputy Director General Jefferson Soriano, Directors Luizo Ticman, Ronald Roderos, Romeo Hilomen, George Piano and Leocadio Santiago.
“As part of procedures, the Office of the Ombudsman will give directive to the people involved. So we will just wait for instructions from the proper authority,” Cerbo added.
Cerbo noted that Ubalde voluntarily left his position as director of the PNP Legal Service and moved to the Holding Group purportedly so as not to compromise the police organization while the case against him is pending.
The PNP spokesman clarified that the officers are not yet convicted, and that the court will give them the chance to present their side.
When asked if police operatives are ready to arrest their former chief and superiors if ordered, Cerbo answered in the affirmative.
“You have seen how we have performed and done our job in the past. That’s not an option. These are the things we are mandated to do,” Cerbo said in Filipino.
Arroyo, meanwhile, claimed the filing of a new case against him and the police officials was a result of pressure from Malacañang and from some senators.
He said he was wondering why the Ombudsman appeared to have ignored overwhelming documentary evidence that he had presented.
He claimed the new case was based only on a “bare testimony of an individual.”
“We are aware of the pressure exerted by a politician who is acting like an inquisitor. His inquisitorial tendencies are typical of his old ways as a martial law enforcer against activists,” Arroyo said in a text message to reporters.
He did not identify the politician but it was believed he was referring to Sen. Panfilo Lacson.
Lacson was a member of the defunct Metrocom Intelligence and Security Group, a feared military organization accused of involvement in the summary execution of activists and enemies of the Marcos dictatorship.
It was Lacson who initiated the Senate probe on the so-called helicopter scam.
“From dramatic and scripted Senate investigation to filing of the Ombudsman, nothing else is new. It is clear from documents in CAAP (Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines) that from the start Lion Air is the owner and exclusive distributor of the helicopters in the country and it was Maptra, (Manila Aerospace Products Trading), the marketing agent which sold the helicopters to the PNP,” he said.
“Yet they gave credence to the bare testimony of an individual over the overwhelming documentary evidence showing I am not the owner.” With Paolo Romero