Gloria Arroyo plunder case raffled off to Sandigan’s 1st divisionBy TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The Sandiganbayan First Division will be trying the plunder case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other officials arising from alleged misuse of P366 million in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.
The case was raffled off to the First Division, chaired by Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz, following an 11 a.m. draw inside the courtroom of the Third Division.
“It will just be an ordinary case,’’ De la Cruz told reporters after the brief draw.
The Office of the Ombudsman filed the case last Monday against Arroyo, now a representative of Pampanga, who is detained at a government hospital in Quezon City on charges of electoral sabotage.
It was the first plunder case against Arroyo, who is also facing two counts of graft and one count of breach of ethics in the Sandiganbayan in connection with her approval of the overpriced $329-million National Broadband Network deal with the Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE Corp.
Former PCSO chair Sergio Valencia and former general manager Rosario Uriarte, Arroyo’s coaccused in the plunder case, filed separate motions with the Sandiganbayan seeking to defer the proceedings against them to allow them to pursue their motions for reconsideration with the Ombudsman.
Also charged with plunder were former PCSO board members Manuel Morato, Jose Taruc V, Raymundo Roquero and Ma. Fatima Valdes; former PCSO budget and accounts manager Benigno Aguas; former Commission on Audit Chair Reynaldo Villar and former intelligence and confidential fund audit unit head Nilda Plaras.
Arroyo and the former PCSO and COA officials were accused of conspiring to directly or indirectly accumulate P365.99 million in ill-gotten wealth from the PCSO, an agency tasked with providing aid to the poor.
The Ombudsman said that from January 2008 to June 2010, the accused diverted funds from the PCSO’s operating budget to the confidential or intelligence fund, which could be withdrawn or accessed any time and with few restrictions.
The accused then allegedly converted, misused and illegally transferred the funds for their own use “in the guise of fictitious expenditures.”
On Friday, the graft case against Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and seven Cebu officials over the purchase of P99 million worth of land that was mostly underwater was raffled off to the Second Division, chaired by Associate Justice Oscar Herrera.