Officials admit they knew choppers sold to PNP were 2nd hand

by Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 28 2011 12:41 PM | Updated as of Jul 29 2011 04:30 AM

Officials admit they knew choppers sold to PNP were 2nd hand 1
Former Philippine National Police Chief, Gen. Jesus Versoza (right), and Police Director George Piano, former director for logistics, testify before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigating the alleged purchase by the police of used helicopters from the family of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Photo by Junny Roy for abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines - Police officials involved in the purchase of 3 helicopters worth P105 million for the Philippine National Police (PNP) admitted during a Senate inquiry on Thursday that they knew beforehand that 2 of them were not brand new, contrary to what was required,
 
Supt. Claudio Gaspar, who was part of the team that inspected the helicopters, said he used to fly it before for the family of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
 
Early this month, Sen. Panfilo Lacson alleged that the Arroyos were the owners of the choppers, which were "forcibly" sold as brand new to the PNP for its Special Action Force (SAF) in 2009.
 
Gaspar told the Blue Ribbon Committee that he knew the Raven 44 helicopters were pre-owned and recognized it as the ones he used to fly.
 
Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, the committee's chairman, presented a record of the helicopter's trips in 2004 showing that it used to travel from Malacañang to Pampanga, the former President's hometown, and vice-versa.
 
Among the passengers mentioned in the log are former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and his son, Mikey.
 
"Weren't you surprised that 2 of the choppers that you inspected were the ones you were flying before in Malacañang?" Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada asked Gaspar.
 
"Ang pagkakaalam ko po, 'yon ang ide-deliver sa amin," Gaspar replied.
 
Estrada asked why Gaspar did not bother telling his superiors that the helicopters were not brand new. Gaspar said nobody asked him, and that everyone in the inspection team knew about it anyway.
 
Supt. Larry Balmaceda, another member of the PNP's inspection team, told the committee that the Manila Aerospace Trading Corp. (MAPTRA) had informed him that what would be delivered were 1 brand new and 2 pre-owned choppers.
 
"And that was accepted by the PNP when the request was 3 brand new helicopters?" said Sen. Sergio Osmena III.
 
"Yes," Balmaceda said.
 
MAPTRA officials were invited to the hearing but did not attend.
 
In 2009, the PNP's Negotiation Committee started talks with MAPTRA to buy one equipped light police operational helicoper (LPOH) and two standard LPOHs for P105 million.

The original specification approved by the National Police Commission, however, was three equipped LPOHs.

Former PNP chief Jesus Verzosa approved the contract to purchase one Robinson R44 Raven II and two Robinson R44 Raven I helicopters from MAPTRA.