'Arroyo game plan is to pin Iggy on chopper scam'

By David Dizon, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Aug 23 2011 11:39 AM | Updated as of Aug 23 2011 10:02 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Senators believe the Arroyo camp wants to strengthen their case that Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio Arroyo leased 5 helicopters from Lion Air Inc. in order to save his brother, former first gentleman Mike Arroyo, from the controversy.

Sen.  Teofisto Guingona III, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, said the testimony of LTA Corp. bookkeeper Rowena del Rosario pointing to Iggy Arroyo as her boss could be a ploy to divert attention away from the former first gentleman.

"The senators discussed this and we believe the play here is just point to Iggy, Iggy, Iggy," he said in an ABS-CBN "Umagang Kay Ganda" interview.

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is investigating the Philippine National Police's purchase of 2 secondhand helicopters that were passed off as brand new.

Lion Air president Archibald Po said Mike Arroyo purchased the choppers and then sold it to the PNP for $700,000, a charge Arroyo has denied.

Iggy Arroyo, meanwhile, claimed he leased the choppers from Lion Air in 2004 as president of LTA Corp.

Brazen lying

Guingona said the senators agreed to detain del Rosario in the Senate because they did not believe she was telling the truth about the Arroyos.

He noted that del Rosario said she worked for Iggy Arroyo for 11 years but didn't even know the congressman's birthday.

He also noted the testimonies of other witnesses that Mike Arroyo was always in the LTA Building in Makati, but never Iggy.

"The appreciation of the senators was her lying was brazen. She was lying through her teeth," he said in a separate interview.

The senator pointed to other inconsistencies between del Rosario's testimony and evidence presented by Lion Air employees and the Arroyo camp.

In her testimony, del Rosario said LTA leased the helicopters and that the $500,000 wired to Robinson's USA was part of the lease agreement.

Guingona, however, said Robinson's USA is a helicopter manufacturer and is not in the business of leasing out helicopters.

An alleged lease agreement submitted to the Senate committee also showed the contract was between LTA and Lion Air.

"Everybody knows the lease goes to Lion Air and not Robinson. You only pay Robinson if you are the owner," he said.

Iggy 'like a druglord'

Del Rosario also claimed that Iggy Arroyo paid for the chopper's monthly maintenance fees for the past 8 years but never asked for a receipt from Lion Air. She said the transactions were all paid in cash and were never entered in LTA's books.

Guingona said the payments for the alleged lease of the choppers were not declared by LTA or Iggy Arroyo.

"From 2004 to 2011, 8 years, they paid P18 million. All in cash. Without documents or receipts. You're operating like a druglord," he said.

He noted that Iggy Arroyo could face tax evasion charges for the lease if he is the true lessee of the choppers.

For his part, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said it was the third time that Iggy tried to take the fall for his older brother Mike.

He said Iggy claimed ownership of 2 properties owned by Mike and Gloria Arroyo in 1997.  Later, Iggy also claimed ownership of the Jose Pidal accounts, which was allegedly used by Mike Arroyo to launder money.

Del Rosario 'just a bookkeeper'

Del Rosario's lawyer, Nunilo Marapao Jr., meanwhile said her client is telling the truth and cannot invent stories that will please the senators.

"My client is telling the truth. All I told her is tell the truth. She has yet to invoke her right against self-incrimination. What is clear is she is just a bookkeeper. She just does what is told without questions," he said.

He questioned why del Rosario should be detained when she is cooperating in the Senate probe.

Guingona said the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee will release her from detention once they are satisfied that she is not holding back anything in the hearing.

"She has to tell the truth, and not avoid it. If in the next hearing she tells the truth, then we will let her go," he said.