By Arlie O. Calalo
The Daily Tribune
The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed for lack of evidence the criminal charges against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in connection with the May 2004 elections held in key provinces in Mindanao.
Aside from the former President, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales also yesterday found no sufficient proof to pin down the six other respondents, including her husband, former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, on the bribery and conspiracy charges filed against them under the Revised Penal Code and Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The case filed against them stemmed from their alleged involvement in bribery and conspiracy said to have been committed during the May 2004 elections in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Sultan Kudarat and Cotabato City.
In August 2011, complainants Pacasirang Batidor, Ahmare Balt Lucman, Hadji Rashid Limbona and Hadji Abdullah Dalidig filed the case against the former President, former Commission on Elections Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, former Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines director general and former Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) general manager Alfonso Cusi, PPA manager Efren Bollozos, former justice secretary Agnes Devanadera, former Shariah Circuit Court Judge Nagamura Moner and Mr. Arroyo.
In their complaint, they alleged that the respondents during the 2004 May elections in the identified Mindanao areas provided transportation through the grant of 12 multi-cab vehicles and the use of a helicopter, and distributed envelopes containing money to unidentified election officers, in perpetuation of the alleged electoral fraud.
But the Office of the Ombudsman, in a 43-page resolution, found no substantial evidence to pursue the filing of criminal charges against the former President and other co-respondents.
“The complaint contains bare allegations and pieces of evidence that are unsubscribed, unauthenticated and recanted affidavits or statements,” the resolution said.
It said further: “It cannot engender a well-founded belief that the crimes have been committed and that the accused are probably guilty thereof and should stand trial.”
On charges that there was bribery committed, the resolution said: “In bribery, it is essential that the recipient of the bribe is a public officer.”
Hence, before a prosecutor can declare that there is probable cause for the felony, there should be proof or showing that the recipient was indeed a public officer. In the present case, nothing of that sort appears, according to the Ombudsman resolution.
“In fact, as already intimated, the supposed recipients of the bribe were not named or sufficiently identified,” the Ombudsman said.
“For conspiracy to exist, two or more persons must come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it,” it added.
The resolution explained that the same degree of proof required for establishing the crime was also required to support a finding of conspiracy, hence, conspiracy must never be presumed.
But the Ombudsman also yesterday filed graft charges against Mr. Arroyo in connection with the allegedly anomalous purchase of helicopters for the Philippine National Police (PNP) in 2009.
Aside from the former first gentleman, former PNP chief Jesus Verzosa and 20 others were included in the charge sheet.
Also charged with violating RA 3019, or the Anti-Corrupt and Graft Practices Act, was Manila Aerospace Products Trading Corp. (Maptra) president Hilario Bautista de Vera.
Mr. Arroyo and his co-respondents were charged over the PNP’s irregular purchase of two units of Robinson R-44 Raven helicopter and a unit of Robinson Raven-2 helicopter that cost the government some P104 million.
The Tribune was told that Carpio-Morales gave the green light to pursue the filing of graft charges against the respondents after finding sufficient evidence to pin them down.
The Office of the Ombudsman in the charge sheet said: “The respondents willfully, unlawfully and criminally gave unwarranted benefits, advantage and preference to the accused (Mr.) Arroyo and De Vera.”
Also facing charges are Chief Supt. Luizo Cristobal Ticman, police directors Ronald Dulay Roderos, Romeo Hilomen, Leocaldio Santiago Jr., former police deputy director general Jefferson Sellano, Chief Supt. Gerold Tugade, Supt. Ermilando Villafuerte, Supt. Roman Loreto, director George Piano, Sr. Supt. Luis Salagumba, Supt. Jog Antonio, Supt. Edgar Fajatin and Supt. Mansueto Lucban.
The Ombudsman dismissed charges of graft and corruption against former Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, former DILG Assistant Secretary Oscar Valenzuela, former National Police Commission director Conrado Sumanga Jr., former PNP chief Avelino Razon Jr. and former Napolcom commissioner Miguel Coronel over the helicopter deal.
There was not enough evidence to show their involvement in the alleged anomalous chopper deals, the anti-graft office said.
Mr. Arroyo had long denied any involvement in the so-called PNP choppers scam as he insisted that he did not own the second-hand helicopters passed off as brand-new to the PNP.