DAGUPAN CITY, Philippines – Presidential bet Rodrigo Duterte did not hesitate to tell media that he uses the private jets and helicopters of Lionair Inc, a company owned by an old friend of his.
“I use the planes of Lionair and you can check it out. Kaibigan ko (My friend). Ang kinocover niya sa akin (What he covers for me) is operational cost,” Duterte told reporters during an ambush interview in Lingayen, Pangasinan on Wednesday, March 3.
“Archie Po has been my friend since our motoring days. He has been my friend for a long time,” said Duterte in a mix of English and Filipino.
He and Po are enthusiasts of big motorcycles and have even gone on motorcycle trips around the country together, said the Davao City mayor.
It’s not the first time Po has made it to the news. Back in 2011, his name appeared in headlines after he testified at the Senate about a dubious helicopter deal that then first gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo made with the Philippine National Police.
Arroyo, he claimed, bought 5 helicopters from him in 2004 but asked him to register the helicopters under a different company name. Arroyo then sold the helicopters to the PNP for the price of brand-new units, according to a previous Newsbreak story.
Duterte has also openly talked about using the private plane of his friend, Davao religious leader Pastor Apollo Quiboloy. He insists Quiboloy has not made any demands of him.
Gutierrez owns SR Metals Inc (SRMI), the controversial mining firm in Agusan del Norte that the Supreme Court ruled to have been carrying out operations destructive to the environment.
SRMI and its sister companies were found to have shipped 1.8 million metric tons of nickel from 2006 to 2007 even if they were allowed to extract and sell only 150,000 metric tons, according to an Inquirer report.
SRMI paid a fine in 2007 for over-extraction but petitions for plunder cases against Gutierrez went nowhere.
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.