Rowena del Rosario, a bookkeeper linked to the helicopter scam involving former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, reminds me of the 1987 movie, “The Untouchables,” which is about the notorious crime boss Al Capone of Chicago in the 1920s.
In the movie, there is also a bookkeeper who is sought by law enforcer Elliot Ness (Kevin Costner) to testify on the underworld operations of Al Capone (Robert Deniro). The bookkeeper is willing to testify, but the problem is how to bring him to court alive.
In the case of Rowena del Rosario, the senators conducting the hearing on the helicopter mess had no such problem because she appeared and testified at the inquiry, but their predicament was that she is a hard nut to crack.
She was obviously lying in her effort to protect her former bosses, Mike Arroyo and his brother Congressman Iggy Arroyo, and the senators cannot ferret out the truth from her.
Lying through her teeth and evasive in answering questions, Rowena, a bespectacled woman of about 40 years old, pushed the senators, particularly Jinggoy Estrada and Ping Lacson, to their wits’ end, causing them to lose their cool and uttering street-corner words that should not have been said in the august halls of the Senate.
At one instance, Lacson, in exasperation, told the witness: “Matalino ka Rowena, pero kung may ayaw kang sagutin na tanong, nagtatangahan ka (You are smart, Rowena, but if you don’t want to answer a question, you are playing dumb).”
This vitriolic remark by Lacson was triggered by Rowena’s failure to give a responsive answer to a question on the taxes paid (if any) by LTA Inc., the company owned by the Arroyo brothers, to the government. To this question, the witness replied, “I don’t know.”
Irked, Lacson went ballistic, saying, “You should know because you are the bookkeeper!”
The witness just put up an expressionless face, staring blankly at the senator.
Rowena is lucky. Had this happened when Ping (Lacson) was still a policeman, as the Cavite folks say, may paglalagyan siya (there’s a proper place for her).
The senators were visibly disappointed by the evasive tactics and outright lying by the witness. Earlier, they cited her in contempt and detained her in the quarters of the Senate sergeant-at-arms for almost one week.
Grilling her again last August 25, Rowena continued to dodge important questions asked by the senators.
Apparently having enough of Rowena’s impertinence, the senators turned their attention to the ownership of two of five helicopters earlier reported to be owned by Mike Arroyo. In a statement, Arroyo denied ownership of the two helicopters now being kept in a hangar in Metro Manila.
Two of the helicopters which had been in use for sometime were sold to the PNP as brand-new. The third was reported to be out of order.
Arroyo pointed to Archibald Po, president of Lion Air, as the owner, but at the hearing, Po also denied owning the aircraft and insisted it is Mike Arroyo who owns them. Po said his company just leased the two choppers from him.
As a result of the not-so-happy merry-go-round on the ownership of the aircraft, it now appears that nobody owns the two helicopters in question.
During the hearing, Rowena told the senators that Iggy Arroyo was the one who had been giving to her money for the maintenance expenses of the helicopters. She was indirectly saying that the owner of the choppers was the congressman. Mike Arroyo had also made similar statement.
But the senators cannot question Iggy because he is in London supposedly for medical treatment as he is allegedly suffering from a liver disease.
Senator Lacson suspected that like in the Jose Pidal account controversy, Iggy is again coming forward to shield his brother from accusations of graft and corruption.
With the stonewalling being done to protect Mike Arroyo, it now appears that like Al Capone, the former First Gentleman is “untouchable.” The Senate investigation, however, indicated that Mike Arroyo and his brother Iggy had not paid taxes for certain years when they were at the helm of LTA Inc.
This may yet be their Achilles heel.
“Untouchable” Al Capone went down not because of his crime operations, but because he did not pay taxes.
Maybe, just maybe, the government could also pin down the Arroyo brothers on the tax issue.