MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/23 August) – I pity Rowena del Rosario, the hapless bookkeeper who was grilled by the Senate blue ribbon committee on financial transactions involving helicopters allegedly owned by former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo. Del Rosario, while declaring under oath that she worked for Mike’s brother Rep. Iggy Arroyo, is said to be actually employed by Mike. And for being “evasive” in her answers to the committee, she was ordered arrested and detained.
Honest observers could sense that Del Rosario had given inconsistent answers some of which even sounded contrary to commonsense and human nature. For instance, she insisted she did not bother to examine the billings sent to her employer from Lionair for the lease of the helicopters which the congressman said he paid with his own money and not from the account of the family-owned LTA Inc. Nobody would buy that line from a bookkeeper, a person whose job is to safeguard the finances of her employer no matter who he really is – or was, since she claimed to have resigned effective last month.
Another female witness, Lionair marketing officer Edith Solano-Juguan, had pointed to Del Rosario as the person who handed her cash whenever she went to Mike’s office to collect payments for the maintenance billings for – not lease of – the helicopters. Juguan said she received from Del Rosario the total amount of P18.45 million for eight years. She added that in some instances that she collected the payments she happened to see and exchange casual greetings with the former First Gentleman.
Del Rosario’s testimony before the Senate blue ribbon committee attempted to establish two crucial claims: 1] it was Rep. Arroyo not the LTA that shouldered the “lease” of the choppers even if the supposed lease agreement was between the family-owned firm and Lionair; 2] the Arroyos did not own the controversial choppers, which were sold to the Philippine National Police and made to appear as brand new even if each of the aircraft has logged at least 500 hours of flying time.
Based on her own inconsistent statements, Del Rosario appeared to be covering up for her boss and taking the blows at the Senate in his behalf. Unfortunately for her, she came unprepared for the rigorous cross-examination and so could not adequately explain the gaps in her testimony.
Still, I find it oppressive that Del Rosario had to suffer the consequence of the irregularities attributed to her employer – whoever it is between Mike and Iggy. She is a mere pawn in this latest attempt by the Arroyos to evade accountability for past misdeeds, a subordinate forced to sing the song of the man that gives her daily bread. It was her voice the senators heard, but she just echoed the words dictated to her. It was a clear case of perjury by proxy.
And so, in the spirit of compassion, the Senate should release Del Rosario. Detaining her will serve no purpose other than showing yet again the power of the Senate. From the inconsistencies in her testimony, the people will now be able to render a right judgment on the issue. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])