They'd rather look stupid than tell the truth
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-08-09
Your Chair Wrecker watched with amusement the August 2 Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the PNP (Philippine National Police) helicopter scam. It was amusing to discover how police officers would rather look stupid before the Filipino people than reveal what they know about a corruption scandal and provide closure.

If we were still under the previous regime, then it’s understandable when police officers are stifled from telling the truth. Now, you must wonder why those PNP officers linked to the helicopter scam are still opting to hide the truth. The logical conclusion in many people’s minds would be that they feel as guilty as the mastermind and perpetrators of the helicopter scam and so they feel that they too must try to hide the truth. It’s either that or perhaps somebody is providing them incentives to look stupid before the nation.

Senators Franklin Drilon, Serge Osmena, TG Guingona and Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile (JPE) deserve commendation for the way they successfully drew a composite picture of how former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo allegedly shafted the Filipino nation by masterminding the sale of overpriced helicopters to the PNP. It turned out that two of the choppers were used units that were refurbished to be passed off as brand new.

The testimonies of the invited resource persons gave you the impression that the helicopter scam was an underworld operation. Large amounts of payments were settled in cash — something you’d expect from Mafia dealings but not from supposed legitimate firms supplying the government. Then too, there is the active participation of corrupt cops, reminding you of the corrupt New York Police Captain that broke the nose of future Don, Michael Corleone, in the classic Mafia novel The Godfather.

To add to the underworld character of the helicopter scam, a lot of aspects were shrouded in mystery. PNP bosses mysteriously approved the contract without questioning the glaring fraud of used choppers being passed off as brand new. Non-experts were mysteriously assigned to check the delivered helicopters. Due diligence was mysteriously lacking in the PNP operating procedures.

Did we get an underworld boss for our former First Gentleman? Too bad for Mike Arroyo that his partners in the alleged helicopter scam — Lion Air Inc.’s Archibald Po and MAPTRA’s (Manila Aerospace Trading Corp.) Hilario de Vera — opted to protect themselves by cooperating and revealing the details.

Under the President Noynoy Aquino (PNoy) sun, Mike Arroyo no longer has the Department of Justice (DoJ) clout that he enjoyed during the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) regime — especially when the DoJ was under then Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez. The number of libel cases that Mike Arroyo had filed against journalists — one of them was your Chair Wrecker — that were easily elevated for trial demonstrated how the DoJ had pandered to every Mike Arroyo wish and command.

A Manila Prosecutor admitted that there was absolutely no libel in what your Chair Wrecker wrote. My case would have easily been thrown out by the DoJ — but not during that climate of impunity and not when you’re up against then First Gentleman Mike Arroyo.

Perhaps it was providential that the libel case against your Chair Wrecker fell into the sala of an old, retiring and honest judge — former Manila Trial Court Judge Romulo Lopez. Other similarly indicted journalists settled for an offer by Mike Arroyo to withdraw his case. Your Chair Wrecker opted to go through the trial process and my case was dismissed. Most, if not all, of the libel cases that Mike Arroyo filed against journalists pertained to his alleged involvement in the 2004 election cheating operation.

Politically and from a communications viewpoint, the filing of all those libel cases against so many journalists can be considered as counter productive. All those cases merely promoted the public perception that Mike Arroyo was suppressing press freedom in order to hide the truth.

The fact that Mike Arroyo still preferred to use that option would indicate the presence of a great fear that sideswiped reason. Was it a preventive measure to stifle further discussion on the 2004 election cheating? Once in the courts, the subject matter can no longer be discussed in media.

Some would attribute it to God’s justice that always prevails in the end. Others would call it karma catching up with Mike Arroyo. These days, Mike Arroyo cannot sue journalists again like he did once. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima will not allow him to arraign journalists on baseless libel charges that are obviously intended to prevent more exposure of the embarrassing truth. It’s also difficult to find a basis for suing for libel when there are so many witnesses providing direct knowledge of one’s criminal activities.

Your Chair Wrecker could have filed a damage claim against Mike Arroyo after my libel case was dismissed. My delicate health condition was placed under severe stress after seeing the tremendous clout that the First Gentleman wielded in the judiciary. When Mike Arroyo suffered a near fatal aneurism, which to this day is said to put his life at risk, your Chair Wrecker decided to do an act of Christian charity and opted not to sue him anymore for damages.

It’s a big comfort to know that you’re quite different from a fellow like Mike Arroyo.
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