Police in the Philippines filed a plunder complaint Friday against the husband of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for allegedly conspiring to sell to police two helicopters he owned but passed off as new.

Along with Jose Miguel "Mike" Arroyo, police also filed charges against former Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, former national police chief Jesus Verzosa and 17 other retired and active duty officers and civilians while Arroyo was still in office two years ago.

The government ombudsman, who prosecutes alleged wrongdoing by state officials and their associates, will determine if there is enough evidence for an indictment.

Samuel Pagdilao, head of the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group that filed the complaint, said documents and testimony from a Senate investigation showed that the former president's husband owned the helicopters when they were sold to police.

Arroyo's husband said the police had no documents to support allegations he owned the helicopters.
In a statement, he said the police "never asked to get my side" and instead relied on allegations made by an airline company official against whom he has filed perjury charges.

Archibald Po, a director of Asian Spirit airline, testified in the Senate last month that his company bought the helicopters for the former president's husband and that they were used during Arroyo's 2004 presidential campaign.

"This is clearly a pattern of harassment and persecutory tactics to vilify the Arroyos even without evidence," Arroyo said.
In a separate comment, a spokesman for the former president, who is now a member of the House of Representatives, said the government of her successor, Benigno Aquino III, is "engaged in witchhunting against the Arroyos."

"This is part of the ongoing and massive vilification campaign against the Arroyos" to cover for Aquino's alleged lack of achievements to improve the lives of Filipinos, said spokesman Raul Lambino.
Aquino has denied claims by the Arroyos that they are being targeted in his anti-corruption campaign even though he has said corruption plagued the nine-year Arroyo administration.

In 2009, police purchased what they thought were three brand new Robinsons R44 Raven 1 helicopters for 105 million pesos ($2.5 million), but two were later discovered to have already been used.

The complaint accuses Arroyo's husband and the others of "acting in concert and taking undue advantage of their official position, authority, relationship, connection or influence to unjustly enrich themselves."
Under a Philippine law, currently serving or former state employees and their associates who amass at least 50 million pesos ($1.2 million) in ill-gotten wealth through criminal acts may be charged with plunder.

It is the first plunder case filed against Arroyo's husband. The former president is herself facing three similar charges.

Benjamin de los Santos, a lawyer for Verzosa, welcomed the filing of the charges and expressed confidence that the former national police chief's actions were in accordance with the procurement law.
"Now the wheels of justice will start to move and we trust in the rule of law to ferret out the truth," he said.


Philippine president Benigno Aquino was described by the former United States' envoy as "diffident and unassertive", secret cables published by anti-secrecy website Wikileaks reveal.

US ambassador to Manila Kristie Kenney filed the series of unflattering cables after then senator Aquino had declared his presidential candidacy and during the election campaign, the website said.

"Previous contacts with Senator Aquino, often accompanying his mother... left the impression of a diffident, unassertive man continuing a political tradition handed on by his parents but not carving his own legacy," said Kenney.

Wikileaks said the dispatch was made after the son of the late democracy icon and former president Corazon Aquino called on the US envoy at her home in January 2010.

"Senator Aquino's confident, energetic announcement today was a stark contrast his diffident performance last week," she wrote after Aquino announced his candidacy in September 2009.

"It remains unclear whether Aquino can turn his shy, reserved qualities into strengths," she said.
The cables suggested Kenney, who ended her Philippine posting last year, remained unimpressed to the end.

"Unlike other major presidential candidates... Aquino was vague on specific policies he would pursue if he won office," she said of the meeting at her home.

She conceded: "Aquino may be perceived as having had a lacklustre political career, but he also appears to have a relatively clean record with no baggage of scandals, which could be a distinct advantage."
Responding to the revelations presidential spokesman Ricky Carandang suggested Kenney had sided with the incumbent leader's predecessor Gloria Arroyo.


The 2,000-strong private army of a powerful clan suspected of carrying out the Philippines' worst political massacre was better armed than the military and police, leaked US embassy cables showed.

The cables from late 2009, released by anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, described the reach of the feared Ampatuan clan in the southern region of Mindanao and said it had authorities on the run.

Key members of the clan and its private army are now being tried for the murder of 57 people in Mindanao in 2009 but many of the accused are still at large, making witnesses reluctant to come forward.

"We estimate that the Ampatuan clan maintains a private army of up to 2,000 men -- who are often better armed and equipped than their (police) and (military) counterparts," an embassy cable said.

"Government officials were astonished by the size of the arms caches and the power of the weaponry" that was later recovered from the Ampatuans, another cable said.
However, the files also said the government had turned a "blind eye" to such private armies because they helped in the fight against Muslim insurgents.

"They are often politically allied with the President," one cable added, referring to then-president Gloria Arroyo.
The Ampatuans were allies of Arroyo but she disowned them after they were linked to the murder of 57 political rivals, lawyers and journalists in a bid to prevent a rival from challenging them in elections in 2010.

The embassy also noted that Arroyo had to impose martial law in the affected area in order to arrest the suspects, disarm the Ampatuans and restore order.

"There are many areas in the Philippines... where armed groups have proliferated and the national authorities have a very limited capability to impose order," the secret documents warned.

Although many key members of the Ampatuan clan have been arrested, victims' relatives have expressed concern that, in the Philippines' notoriously overburdened justice system, the trial could take years to complete.

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