By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Sandiganbayan Seventh Division has decided to proceed with the graft trial of former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, former Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Jesus Verzosa, and 10 others involved in a reportedly anomalous helicopter deal of the PNP in 2009.
Arroyo, the husband of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, and the others are facing charges for violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act (RA) No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Arroyo and the others filed their motions for reconsiderations last year, seeking to convince the anti-graft court to grant their respective motions for leave to file demurrer to evidence, which is an act made by the defense contesting that the prosecution’s evidence is insufficient to reach a guilty verdict.
Arroyo argued in his motion that as a private person, he can only be indicted for these cases if conspiracy is established without public officers. In this case, Arroyo said the prosecution failed to establish “with whom, among the accused public officers in this case, and how or through what acts, did he conspire.”
Arroyo added the prosecution was also unable to prove his ownership of the subject helicopters.
Meanwhile, Verzosa said he merely signed procurement documents upon reliance on the findings, recommendations, and resolutions of his subordinates, and that there was no evidence showing his participation in the proceedings before the bids and awards committee (BAC) or any irregularity in the procurement of the helicopters.
However, the anti-graft court ruled against them. The resolution stressed that Versoza, as the head of the procuring entity (HOPE), cannot just rely on the recommendations of his subordinates because his role as HOPE gives him the final approval in the procurement of the helicopters.
As for Arroyo’s argument, the court said his assertions cannot defeat the controverting evidence given by prosecution witnesses Archibald Po, Renato Sia, and Editha Solano Juguan.
“Where there thus appears sufficiency of evidence preliminarily weighed at this instance, it is only for the accused to present their defense for a proper appreciation of the charges. The most cost-effective and expeditious way to do this is to proceed to trial, unabated by any other motions,” the court said.
The 10-page resolution was written by Seventh Division Chairperson Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta with the concurrences of Associate Justices Zaldy Trespeses and Georgina Hidalgo.
Arroyo and Versoza’s co-accused include Romeo Hilomen, Roman Loreto, Avensuel Dy, Claudio D.S. Gaspar Jr., Ronald Roderos, Ruben Gongona, Ma. Linda Padojinog, Leocadio Salva Santiago Jr., Ermilando Villafuerte, and Job Nolan Antonio. The anti-graft court likewise denied their respective motions for reconsideration.