Evidence upheld vs Mike Arroyo, PNP officials over chopper deal

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    GOVERNMENT prosecutors have presented enough evidence in support of the criminal charges filed against former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, former PNP chief Jesus Verzosa and 19 other former high ranking police officials in connection to the allegedly anomalous P105 million secondhand chopper deal 10 years ago.

    The Sandiganbayan Seventh Division denied the defendants’ motions for leave of court to file their respective demurrer to evidence, declaring that all the key elements of graft and falsification charges filed against them were adequately established through testimonies and documentary exhibits marked by the prosecution.

    “This Court has already ruled, which none of the accused contests except only insofar as their individual acts are perceived, that there is sufficient evidence to establish the crimes charged,” the anti-graft court said.

    Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Dolores C. Gomez-Estoesta penned the 10-page resolution with Associate Justices Zaldy V. Trespeses and Georgina D. Hidalgo concurring.

    The Office of the Ombudsman filed the cases in 2012 alleging conspiracy among the accused to defraud the government by passing off two secondhand Robinson R44 helicopters as brand new in 2009.

    Aside from Arroyo and Verzosa, also among those charged were former deputy director general for operations Jefferson P. Soriano, PNP director for logistics and negotiation committee chairman Luizo C. Ticman, director for research and development Ronald D. Roderos, director for comptrollership Romeo C. Hilomen, director for the PNP Special Action Force Leocadio S. Santiago Jr., director for legal service Herold G. Ubalde, director for logistics support service George Q. Piano; members of the PNP Bids and Awards Committee and Manila Aerospace Products Trading Corp (Maptra) president Hilario de Vera.

    Prosecutors said the used helicopters were previously owned by Arroyo although the former presidential spouse denied any involvement in the transaction, insisting that he had divested himself of any interest in LTA Incorporated years ahead of the procurement contract.

    Verzosa, on the other hand, invoked the Arias doctrine which recognizes that a public official is expected to rely on the inputs of his subordinates due to the volume of work he has to attend to.

    The former police chief noted that the contract went through several levels of evaluation by the BAC, the negotiations committee, and the acceptance committee.

    However, the Sandiganbayan said the defendants must now present evidence to prove their assertion of innocence.

    “At this instance, the assertions of private accused Arroyo cannot defeat, without controverting evidence on his part, the evidence mostly presented against him by prosecution witnesses,” the court said.