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Lacson: Chopper ‘forcibly’ sold to PNP landed in area restricted for presidents

One of at least three helicopters allegedly sold forcibly to the Philippine National Police (PNP) in 2009 had logs indicating it landed in an area in Malacañang reserved only for the president, Sen. Panfilo Lacson disclosed Monday. Lacson indicated this was among the documents that may be presented at a Senate investigation into the P105-million sale of the choppers to show that the Arroyos may have owned them before. “Kasi ang A-3 sa Malacañang, only the president can land or only the presidential chopper or the chopper carrying the president can land in Area 3. If you look or inspect the flight logs you will see several landings in A-3," he said. He said the PNP, which he headed under the Estrada administration, has an Inspection and Acceptance Team that would inspect the choppers, and cannot hide the details of the flight logs forever. Former First Gentleman Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo had already denied accusation that his family sold a used helicopter to the PNP in 2009, during the incumbency of his wife, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Arroyo said the Volco helicopter, which previously belonged to their family firm LTA Incorporated, was sold to another private company. “The chopper issue is nothing but another sordid exercise to further malign our name. This is again part of the continuing persecution to mask the lackadaisical performance of this administration to the detriment of the Filipino people," he said in a statement issued on July 6. Second-hand choppers Lacson, meanwhile, cited a report from the PNP’s air unit that two Robinson standard choppers were “not brand-new when received by the PNP on Sept. 24, 2009," adding that they had an accumulated flight time record of more than 500 hours. Also, he said a check with the distributor of the choppers showed that as of January 2011, the price of one brand-new chopper was $348,000 or about P18 million. A five-year-old chopper would cost about $100,000 or less than P5 million. Yet, Lacson said the three choppers sold in 2009 fetched some P30 million each. “Bakit walang due diligence ang PNP? The only logical conclusion is it was forced on them," Lacson said. Last week, Lacson disclosed he obtained documents indicating that the Arroyos were the former owners of the helicopters “forcibly" sold and priced as brand-new to the PNP for P105 million in 2009. "Initial findings would indicate that the previous and original owners of the pre-owned, yet sold as brand-new light police operational helicopters are the Arroyos. While it's bad enough that the two units were overpriced and therefore grossly disadvantageous to the government, passing them off as brand-new smacks of brazen deceit and utmost bad faith," he said. Lacson had initiated an investigation into alleged misrepresentations in the P105-million purchase of the light operational helicopters by the PNP’s elite Special Action Force (SAF). On July 9, 2009, the PNP Negotiation Committee recommended the award of the contract to MAPTRA for one Robinson R44 Raven II and two Robinson R44 Raven I helicopters. But it was later learned that MAPTRA had been engaged in the business only in June 2009. Also, it was learned the supposedly new choppers were “pre-owned" as far back as March 2004. On the other hand, Lacson said that while the PNP officials involved in the deal were complicit partners, they are the least to blame in this anomalous transaction. - KBK, GMA News