Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Repost From Philippine Daily Inquirer

No record of Mike Arroyo’s HK trip

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DOING A LACSON? Former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo is in Hong Kong for a medical checkup, but there’s no record of him leaving the Philippines, say authorities. Photo taken on July 16 when he and his wife, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, arrived in Manila from Amsterdam. JESS YUSON

Where is he?

The Department of Justice (DoJ) on Thursday placed on the immigration watch list former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, who flew to Hong Kong on Sunday without being noticed by the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

Amid reports that Arroyo left for Hong Kong last Sunday, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s check with the Bureau of Immigration showed no record of the former first gentleman leaving the country.

“It was possible that he used a chartered or private plane,” De Lima said at a press conference.

De Lima said she was having this checked with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, which has records of chartered flights.

If it turned out that Arroyo had not left, then De Lima said his lawyers might be asked to “show proof” that he indeed was out of the country as they had claimed.

Nonetheless, De Lima was banking on the word of the lawyers that their client was abroad and would return to the country.

De Lima issued the order following a formal request from Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, the chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee.

The committee is looking into allegations that Arroyo sold two of his used helicopters that were passed off as brand new to the Philippine National Police in 2009. The Senate has announced it will invite Arroyo to its next hearing on the helicopter controversy scheduled on Aug. 11.

Valid for 60 days

The Bureau of Immigration received De Lima’s order at around 5 p.m. Thursday.

The bureau’s spokesperson, Ma. Antonette Mangrobang, said Immigration Associate Commissioner Abdullah Mangutara issued a memorandum to the bureau’s airport operations and immigration regulations division to implement the order.

The watch list order is valid for 60 days unless terminated or extended, Mangrobang said in a text message.

Also on list

Also placed on the immigration watch list was Rowena del Rosario, who was identified by Lionair Inc. owner Archibald Po at the blue ribbon committee as Arroyo’s secretary and the one who paid for the maintenance fees of the five Robinson helicopters Arroyo bought from Lionair.

Listed as Arroyo’s and Del Rosario’s address was LTA Building, which is owned by Arroyo’s family, on Perea Street in Makati City.

Po said the two used choppers sold to the PNP were among the helicopters Arroyo acquired for the campaign of his wife, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in the 2004 presidential election.

Inocencio Ferrer, a lawyer of Arroyo, denied that the former President’s husband had owned the choppers and said that Arroyo’s name did not appear in any documents pertaining to the ownership of the helicopters.

Even if Arroyo is currently in Hong Kong, as claimed by his lawyer, the watch list will not be rendered “inutile,” De Lima said.

“Once he comes back, the airport authorities are duty bound to report about it to the Senate or the DOJ,” the justice secretary said.


Ferrer assured the public that his client would face the Senate probe, but a senator doubted that he would return from Hong Kong to appear before the blue ribbon committee.

“Mr. Arroyo will finish his medical checkup in Hong Kong this afternoon, then he will come home to confront these two witnesses,” Ferrer said in an interview on Radyo Inquirer.

“He will come back and face (the Senate probe),” Ferrer said. “I was authorized by Mr. Arroyo to assure you that he is coming back. His family is here. His wife is here. His grandchildren are here.”

At a news conference, Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said he believed Arroyo would “go TNT (tago nang tago) in Hong Kong” until the furor over his supposed involvement in the sale of two old choppers dies down.

Aug. 11 hearing

Guingona said Arroyo would be “invited” to attend the panel’s third hearing on Aug. 11.

But Cayetano said Arroyo would just order his doctors to explain for him that he cannot come home due to the “medical examination” he is undergoing in Hong Kong.

“I’m just wondering, how come (Arroyo) always goes to St. Luke’s (Medical Center) whenever he has a medical emergency but a Senate hearing comes and he’s in Hong Kong,” Cayetano told reporters.

The senator noted that when Arroyo underwent open-heart surgery in 2007, the latter was praising St. Luke’s doctors to high heavens for taking good care of him.

“But why is it that when a Senate hearing is set, he has to go to Hong Kong to see a doctor? Sobrang tago mode,” Cayetano said.

Ferrer said Arroyo was not in hiding in Hong Kong and had no reason for him to do so.

“With due respect to Senator Guingona, Mr. Arroyo’s consultation with and treatment by his doctors/specialists in Hong Kong should not be considered an act of ‘fleeing,’ especially since Mr. Arroyo has not yet been invited or subpoenaed by the Senate,” Ferrer said.

Cayetano assured Arroyo that he had nothing to fear because the Senate was prepared to coordinate with his doctors to make sure the environment in the session hall and the decorum of his interrogators would not trigger a spike in his stress levels.

“I can assure him we will be gentlemen and the ladies would be proper when we ask questions,” he added.

Didn’t leave paper trail

Cayetano lamented that Arroyo and his lawyers had insisted that they would explain his role in the helicopter sale “in the proper venue or through legal processes.

“But the Senate investigation is part of the legal process and is a correct venue… They cannot keep dodging the ball. They have to be accountable,” he added.

The senator dismissed lawyer Ferrer’s denial that Lionair had maintained a fleet of five Robinson helicopters for Arroyo.

Po already told senators that Arroyo had asked for “blank deeds of sale” after completing payments for the helicopters in March 2004.

Cayetano, however, surmised that this was because Arroyo made sure not to leave a paper trail. “We never said (Arroyo) was stupid. There are allegations of corruption against the Arroyo family but not stupidity,” he added.

Unlike some senators, Malacañang was willing to give Arroyo the benefit of the doubt over his trip to Hong Kong.

‘Nobody asked me’

“We have no reason to believe yet that the trip was undertaken for something else than what was released by their camp,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.

Asked whether the Palace shared Cayetano’s view that Arroyo’s health problems and need for checkups come up whenever there was a Senate investigation against him, Valte said, “we noticed that also.”

Valte added that “given the gravity of the allegations, probably anyone will get sick because of these allegations.’’

Ferrer said he learned that Arroyo had left for Hong Kong when they talked over the phone on Sunday night. He said Arroyo was already in Hong Kong at that time.

Ferrer said Arroyo had planned to leave for a checkup in Hong Kong last week. He postponed his trip after his wife underwent a neck operation on Friday.

Ferrer said his client left for Hong Kong after the former President was released from St. Luke’s hospital in Global City.

He said he did not talk about Arroyo’s trip because “nobody asked me.”


De Lima said being placed on the immigration watch list was “not an injunction against leaving (the country) unlike a hold departure order.”

“However, anyone who is the subject of a watch list order must first seek a clearance before he or she can leave, justify that his travel is for a legitimate purpose and not for the purpose of evading the law,” De Lima said.

The DOJ will have to assess whether someone on the watch list would be allowed to leave the country.

“If one wants to leave for a vacation, unlike business purposes, or for a medical checkup, we would be a little more discerning,” she said.

In the case of Arroyo, De Lima said, the DOJ would have to coordinate with the Senate if he asks permission to leave while he is on the immigration watch list.

“If the Senate says we should not allow him to leave, then we have to concede to the Senate,” De Lima said.

Reposted From Philippine Daily Inquirer

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Repost From Thea Alberto-Masakayan of Yahoo! News

Senator Zubiri resigns from post, to run in 2013

Photo by NPPA Images

Photo by NPPA Images

UPDATE 2: Saying that honor goes above anything, Senator Juan Miguel "Migz" Zubiri resigned from his post Wednesday, roughly two years before he ends his six-year term.

In a privilege speech, Zubiri said he resigned because of "unfounded accusations" against him, which has deeply hurt his family.

"I am resigning because of these unfounded accusations against me and these issues has systematically divided our nation and has cast doubts in our electoral system which has affected not only myself, this Institution but the public as well," Zubiri said.

"And as a legislator, who is being referred to in the Senate as “Your Honor”, I believe that my honor is something that should never be subject to taint," he added.

This, amid fresh revelations by Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol of alleged fraud in the 2007 elections.

"Without admitting any fault and with my vehement denial of the alleged electoral fraud hurled against me, I am submitting my resignation as a duly elected Senator of the Republic of the Philippines in the election for which I am falsely accused without mercy and compassion," a calm Zubiri said as he delivered his privileged speech.

"I have seen and felt the suffering of my family, and from the burrows of my conscience, I could not allow this to happen, let alone be tolerated," Zubiri added.

"I did not cheat nor ask anyone to cheat for me and my family. We would never tolerate any form of electoral fraud," he added.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said he would study Zubiri's resignation.

Zubiri, however stressed his resignation was irrevocable.

Plans after resignation

Interviewed after delivering his speech, Zubiri said he would seek a Senate post in 2013. "I will seek a fresh mandate," he told reporters.

His wife, Audrey Zubiri said she is supporting her husband's decision.

"Sa ngayon I'm very proud of my husband. Pinatunayan niya na siya ay isang tunay na lalaki," she told reporters.

For now, they will enjoy a private life together. She added in jest that they'll be "making babies."


Enrile lauded Zubiri's decision and noted it was a "very rare show of moral courage."

"Today I am happy that in my lifetime and in my watch as Senate President, I've seen a man standing before us to uphold the honor of his family and himself," Enrile said, noting that that Senate would be losing "one of the most articulate, one of the most promising members."

Meanwhile, Malacanang urged Zubiri to help shed light on poll fraud allegations.

"We call on Mr. Zubiri to further demonstrate his willingness to help restore the dignity of our electoral process. Any contribution he makes can be vital in restoring the people’s mandate," Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a statement.

2007 poll fraud

An administration bet, Zubiri landed the 12th and last spot for the Senate, narrowly defeating opposition bet, lawyer Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III.

Pimentel has since contested Zubiri's win but failed to get the High Court's restraining order on Zubiri's proclamation.

Zubiri was proclaimed Senator on July 2007 with 11,001,730 votes, a little over Pimentel's 10,983,358. An electoral protest is pending before the Senate Electoral Tribunal.

In a telephone interview, former Senator Aquilino "Nene" Pimentel Jr. said he is hoping his son could soon get the post.

"We are hoping it will happen sooner or later," he said, noting that Koko still have less than two years to work in the Senate.

As for Zubiri, he said he would "live in happiness and peace" with his family.

"I will leave the Senate with my head held up high, knowing that despite all endeavors that came my way, I was able to survive and perform, and I did so with the support of those who believed in me and my advocacies," he added.

Senator Jose Miguel Zubiri

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Repost From Cathy Yamsuan of Philippine Daily Inquirer

‘Jose Miguel Arroyo owned helicopters’

Businessman to testify in Senate probe

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Two five-year old helicopters sold as brand new to the Philippine National Police in 2009 were among the five choppers that then First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo acquired for the campaign of his wife, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in the 2004 presidential election.

This was disclosed by a businessman, who was privy to the sale of the helicopters to Mike Arroyo in late 2003. The businessman is scheduled to appear as a witness at a hearing of the Senate blue ribbon committee on Tuesday.

The Inquirer tried to contact Sunday night Raul Lambino, lawyer and spokesperson of the Arroyos, to get his side but did not get any response.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada said the witness got in touch with him last week and presented documents, including copies of the record of payments made by Arroyo from December 2003 to March 2004.

Estrada said the witness, a well-known personality in the aviation industry, told him that the five helicopters—all Robinson R44 Raven Is with Series Nos. 1370 to 1374—were purchased for use in the 2004 election campaign of then President Arroyo.

Initially, the witness said Mike Arroyo only wanted to lease helicopters from Lionair, exclusive distributor of Robinson helicopters in the country.

However, Mike Arroyo was told that all Robinson units at the time were already out on loan to his wife’s political rival, Fernando Poe Jr.

Documents shown to the Inquirer indicated that Mike Arroyo paid a deposit of $95,000 each for the five units on Dec. 11, 2003, for a total of $475,000. The net balance of $948,025 was paid from March 2 to March 9, 2004. A total of $1,423,025 was paid to Lionair for the five helicopters.

Cash payments

Estrada said all helicopters were paid for in cash that a Lionair representative would collect from the LTA Building, which belongs to Arroyo’s family, on Perea Street in Makati City.

Estrada said the witness claimed that in early 2004, the helicopters were sent via air cargo to Asian Spirit, an airline company in the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.

“He (the witness) said this was done because Asian Spirit was a locator in Clark, meaning it can receive goods without paying taxes and the new owner of the choppers at that time wanted to avoid paying them,” Estrada said in an interview.

“At that time, Asian Spirit and Lionair were owned by one person. But Asian Spirit has since been sold to Zest Air,” the senator said.

Investment banker Noel Oñate sold Asian Spirit for P1 billion in 2008 to AMY Holdings of Alfredo Yao, owner of juice maker Zest-O. A year later, Oñate led a group that acquired the preneed unit Pacific Plans Inc. from the Yuchengcos for P250 million.

Speedy delivery

Estrada added that the witness also pointed out the speed by which the helicopters were delivered. It usually takes six months to deliver a brand new helicopter, according to the witness.

“But he said that in the case of (Mike) Arroyo, this was expedited to three months only. From the time the deposit was made (in December) until full payment (in March),” the senator said.

Supt. Claudio Gaspar, a licensed pilot of the PNP, said under oath last week that he was familiar with two of the helicopters owned by Mike Arroyo. This is because Gaspar frequently ferried Mike Arroyo and his son, Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, from 2004 until the two units were sold to the PNP.

The two units were sold along with a brand new Robinson R44 Raven II to the PNP in 2009 for P105 million. Senators have raised a howl over the transaction since the PNP paid the full price for the old units passed off as brand new.

Gaspar said that while he was aware that the units were old, he did not notify anyone in the PNP about it. He explained that he was present during the inspection “to assist” and not to warn anyone of the real condition of the units.

Gaspar, in his testimony, recalled seeing “PNP markings” being painted on the 5-year old helicopters before the inspection by a PNP team.

2 others unsold

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, in an ambush interview, said he received reports that two of the helicopters owned by Arroyo were still languishing in the Lionair hangar.

A fifth chopper, Gaspar told the Senate, crashed in 2004. Its passenger at the time, Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson, survived.

“The two unsold helicopters are still in the hangar,” Lacson said. “It is now Mike Arroyo’s problem how to get them. Because the helicopters have already been identified through their serial numbers, who’s going to buy them now?”

Lacson added that he also got word that when the helicopters arrived in Clark, “you’ll be amazed at how powerful the person who owned them was. They arrived on a Friday, disassembled and quickly assembled. By Tuesday, there were already certificates from (Air Transportation Office).”

Lacson said insiders in the airline industry disclosed that registration of a new unit usually takes two weeks to a month.

Revenue flights

Estrada, in the interview, said Mike Arroyo supposedly made money on the helicopters during his ownership.

“There were revenue flights when the helicopters were chartered to other parties. However, the witness said these parties were known to FG (a popular reference to Arroyo),” he said.

The witness allegedly told Estrada that Mike Arroyo kept “blank deeds of sale” as proof of purchase of the helicopters.

Responding to a text message on Sunday, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said Mike Arroyo could not invoke private citizenship should he be charged with violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for selling secondhand helicopters at brand new prices to the government.

“Any person who causes undue injury to government through a manifestly gross and unjust situation will have accountability,” said Guingona, the chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee.

“Let’s not presume his guilt at the moment but he cannot invoke that he is a private citizen in this case,” the he added.

Reposted From Cathy Yamsuan of Philippine Daily Inquirer


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