GMA FACES PLUNDER RAPS OVER P365-M PCSO FUNDS
[PHOTO- FORMER PRESIDENT GLORIA MACAPAGAL ARROYO]
MANILA, JULY 18, 2012 (PHILSTAR) By Michael Punongbayan - Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and some of her former officials are now facing a P365.9-million plunder case before the Sandiganbayan for allegedly pocketing more than P365 million of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.
Also charged were former PCSO general manager and vice-chairman Rosario Uriarte; former chairman of the board of directors Sergio Valencia; former budget and accounts manager Benigno Aguas; and former board members Manuel Morato, Jose Taruc, Raymundo Roquero, and Ma. Fatima Valdez.
Also implicated were former Commission on Audit (COA) chairman Reynaldo Villar and Nilda Palaras of the agency’s Intelligence Confidential Funds Fraud Audit Unit.
Arroyo and the rest of the respondents are also accused of “raiding the public treasury by withdrawing and receiving in several instances the amount from the confidential/intelligence funds of the PCSO and unlawfully transferring or conveying the same into their possession and control through irregularly issued disbursement vouchers and fictitious expenditures.”
The plunder complaint is backed by a 43-page Review Resolution by the Office of the Ombudsman, which concluded that the series or combination of acts by the respondents “form a pattern, not only of misuse and raid of PCSO’s Confidential and Intelligence Funds (CIF) from 2008 to 2010, but also of illegal conveyance or disposition of cash advances disbursed therefrom, all while taking advantage of their respective official functions.”
The investigation conducted by the anti-graft agency revealed that from January 2008 to June 2010, the aggregate amount of P365,997,915 representing cash advances were disbursed from PCSO’s CIF in the names of Uriarte in the amount of P352,681,646 and Valencia in the amount of P13,316,269.
The Review Resolution observed that for a government instrumentality primarily tasked to fund health programs, medical assistance and services and charities of national character, PCSO’s CIF surprisingly grew from P10 million in 2000 to P103 million in 2008.
It also found that the additional CIF of P75 million, P90 million and P150 million for the years 2008, 2009 and 2010 were more than double the original CIF allocated in PCSO’s corporate operating budget of P25 million, P60 million, and P60 million for the same periods, respectively.
The Review Resolution stated that the repeated identically worded one-page requests for additional CIF did not have a specific plan, project, program or undertaking of intelligence activity, and that moreover, the requests made for 2008 and 2010 even preceded the approval of PCSO’s corporate operating budget.
The results of the investigation also pointed out certain irregularities and deficiencies in the facilitation of cash advances, such as disbursement vouchers with no supporting documents, false certifications or credit advices that previous advances were liquidated, lack of authorization to approve CIF disbursements for 2008, non-compliance with the form prescribed for liquidation certifications, and lack of supporting documents/receipts to prove that the amounts were used allegedly to fund relief operations or pay “blood money” to the victims of convicted overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
Arroyo and the other accused former officials allegedly took advantage of their official positions and power “to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense of the Filipino people.”
The Office of the Ombudsman listed several witnesses that will help the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), including incumbent PCSO corporate secretary Eduardo Araullo and private complainants Jaime Regalario, Ma. Theresia Baraquel, and Danilo Lim.
The plunder charge against former executive secretary Eduardo Ermita was dismissed for insufficiency of evidence, as he simply performed a duty to implement a presidential directive when he wrote the letter and even added the notation “subject to pertinent budgetary, accounting and auditing rules and regulations.”
The anti-graft court is expected to raffle the plunder case on or before Friday to determine which Sandiganbayan Division will hear it.
The charge sheet, which was also signed by Assistant Ombudsman Weomark Ryan Layson and Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer (GIPO) II Ana Francesca Limbon, said Arroyo and her fellow respondents committed the crime from January 2008 to June 2010.
“On the basis of the evidence presented, there is reasonable ground to believe that the offense charged in the Information, which is plunder, has been committed, and that all the named accused are probably guilty thereof,” Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales told The STAR.
The PCSO plunder case, which stems from two separate complaints filed in July 2011, is the second criminal complaint filed by Ombudsman Morales against Arroyo since she assumed post last year.
Seven months ago, she lodged graft charges against the former president and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo before the Sandiganbayan for their alleged involvement in the botched $329-million national broadband network (NBN) deal anomaly of 2007.
Props for P-Noy’s SONA
Arroyo’s lawyer, Christian Diaz, lamented that the complaint was filed even if there was no evidence at all to support the charges.
Diaz is suspicious that the complaint was filed to ensure that Arroyo would not leave the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City and provide props for President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) next week.
He said the decision of the Pasay regional trial court on his client’s petition for bail on her electoral sabotage case is due anytime soon but Malacañang apparently wanted to make sure she remains under detention in the event the courts grant her bail.
“This is a dark day for the rule of law,” Diaz told The STAR. “Before, cases were decided based on the evidence at hand but here, we don’t know where the Ombudsman got her evidence to support the complaint and how she came to the conclusion that plunder was committed.”
“The timing is really (to) inflict again damage to the former president, especially now that the case for her bail petition is strong,” he said.
He said Arroyo’s legal team will exhaust all legal remedies to prove that she is innocent.
Genuino faces plunder over coffee deal
In a related story, the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. will file a plunder case tomorrow against ex-Pagcor chief Efraim Genuino over the P1-billion coffee deal he signed during his stint with the agency.
Pagcor chairman Cristino Naguiat Jr. said the new plunder case is on top of previous plunder and anti-graft charges against Genuino and other former Pagcor officials over the sponsorship of the movie “Baler” and questionable transactions that benefited the BIDA Foundation.
A Pagcor investigation earlier showed Promolabels Specialty Shop bagged concessionaire contracts to put up Figaro coffee shops in seven Pagcor-operated casinos from 2001 to 2010 for P700 million.
Naguiat said Pagcor is now spending only P40 million a year for coffee, instead of P100 million a year during the previous leadership.
“We are servicing three times more than what they were servicing. We are serving the best Filipino beans,” he said.
Naguiat noted that the Department of Justice is already pursuing a malversation case against Genuino’s two sons, Erwin and Anthony, for using part of a large rice donation from Japan to bolster their candidacies in 2008.
This is apart from separate graft and corruption cases against Genuino and his companions for alleged malversation of P34 million in aid for Filipino athletes.
Naguiat also answered a brewing controversy over Pagcor’s purchase of P8-million worth of bottled mineral water for three casino branches last year without public bidding.
The Pagcor chief said he has decentralized purchasing for the big branches for several years, which led to the purchases.
He justified the purchase of the water without public bidding, saying that the supply contract was for the whole year and there was no overpricing. – Helen Flores, Paolo Romero
FROM STRAITS-TIMES SOUTHEAST-ASIA NEWS ONLINE
Philippines seeks new charges against ex-leader Arroyo Published on Jul 17, 2012
[PHOTO -In a file picture taken on June 22, 2010, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo delivers her speech during a testimonial parade for outgoing Armed Forces chief of staff Delfin Bangit (not pictured) at the military headquarters in Manila. -- PHOTO: AFP]
MANILA (AFP) - The Philippine government ombudsman called for graft charges to be filed against former president Gloria Arroyo on Monday for alleged diversion of state lottery funds in the latest accusation to hit her.
Arroyo remains confined in a government hospital while facing charges of vote-rigging.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, whose office is in charge of investigating government officials, called on an anti-graft court to file 'plunder' charges against Arroyo and nine other government officials.
In a statement, the Ombudsman said it had found Arroyo, 65, and the others, mostly former state lottery officials, had diverted about 366 million pesos (S$11 million) in lottery funds from 2008 to 2010.
VIDEO: GLORIA ARROYO TRANSFERRED FROM ST. LUKES HOSPITAL TO THE VETERANS MEMORIAL HOSPITAL
Uploaded by MoveDotPH on Dec 9, 2011
On December 9, after a series of delays and postponements, former President Gloria Arroyo transfer from the posh St. Luke's Medical Center to the government-run Veterans Memorial Medical Center.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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