Supplier to link Mike Arroyo to alleged chopper scam

by Ira Pedrasa, abs-cbnNEWS.com; Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 01 2011 06:18 PM | Updated as of Aug 02 2011 04:21 AM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - A businessman is expected to name former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo as the previous owner of choppers sold to the Philippine National Police (PNP) for the price of brand new units during a Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on Tuesday.

Archibald Legaspi Po, the president of Lion Air Inc., has confirmed his attendance, Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada said.

Estrada told reporters Po's testimony and the documents he will present will enable the Senate to establish the link between Arroyo and the allegedly anomalous sale of the helicopters to the PNP.

In a 71-page affidavit posted in Newsbreak online, Po said he is the supplier of the choppers now being questioned by the government for being disadvantageous.

Po, who has been in the business of selling helicopters for almost 3 decades now, met Arroyo in 2003 when the latter inquired about chartering helicopters.

Po organized Asian Spirit in 1996 to engage in air transport services. After selling the firm, he organized Lion Air as a service provider and exclusive dealer of Robinson Helicopter Co, which builds the R44 Raven 1 helicopters.

Since all helicopters were on loan then to Fernando Poe Jr. for the 2004 elections, the businessman told Arroyo to instead buy 5 Robinson helicopters, worth $95,000 each or a total of $475,000.

Arroyo also supposedly asked Po to assist in the importation of the helicopters, by coursing it through Asian Spirit. As a locator at the Clark Export Processing Zone, any importation by Asian Spirit would be tax free.

The 5 helicopters were delivered on different dates between March 12 and March 24, 2004.

“However, FG asked me to sign 5 deeds of sale for the 5 helicopters in blank, which he kept. I retained no copy of these deeds, which I signed in blank, meaning there was no indicated buyer,” he added.

Expensive

Lion Air provided the maintenance of the helicopters. Only 4 remained by 2007 because one crashed.

“Sometime in 2006, FG told me that he was selling the helicopters at $350,000 each. I commented that the price was on the high side for pre-owned helicopters, but FG said that was the price he was willing to sell the helicopters,” Po added.

In order that customs and duties would be properly paid and sold to third parties, Po said Asian Spirit needed to sell the choppers to Lion Air.

It was in 2009 that the Manila Aerospace Products Trading (MAPTRA) came into the picture. It was MAPTRA that supposedly sold the choppers to the Philippine National Police.

MAPTRA later asked them to revise their proposal to 3 helicopters, inclusive of duties and other costs. As such, the tender price was adjusted to $448,173.73 each or a total of $1.34 million.

“Thereafter, MAPTRA required revision of our proposal to only 2 pre-owned units and 1 brand new helicopter,” Po said.

Lion Air submitted the proposal on April 13 and June 3, 2009.

MAPTRA to deal with government

It was in July that same year that MAPTRA “intimated” that it had problems participating in government biddings, he added.

“I flatly told MAPTRA that we prefer not to do business with the government. However, MAPTRA suggested that all they needed was to be made to appear as our marketing arm on account of Lionair’s being the exclusive dealer of Robinson…,” he said.

He later acceded.

The deed of absolute sale was executed on November 23, 2009.

“I no longer have any personal knowledge about what happened to the 2 pre-owned helicopters after we delivered them to MAPTRA,” he stressed.

In a statement, Arroyo denied selling the choppers to PNP.

"Neither I nor the former President sold helicopter to the PNP. LTA Inc, which we own, had a Bolkow helicopter which was sold not to the PNP but to another private company (Fusion Link, Inc.).”

He said the chopper scandal is "nothing but another sordid exercise to further malign our name."

Arroyo also said, "this is again part of the continuing persecution to mask the lackadaisical performance of this administration to the detriment of the Filipino people. The public should be wary of statements coming from a former fugitive from justice."

The issue was first revealed by Senator Panfilo Lacson.