Ex-PCSO director Morato fires back
Says accusers used intel funds, tooBy Jerry E. Esplanada
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Top officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) used nearly P40 million in “leftovers” from the controversial P325 million in the agency’s intelligence funds when they took over in mid-2010, according to former PCSO Director Manuel L. Morato.
Morato, one of 10 former government officials, including former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, accused of plunder involving PCSO funds, is confined in a suite at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City, under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation.
“The fact remains I was only a PCSO director under then President [Arroyo] so I had nothing to do with the intelligence funds,” Morato said. “Under the law, only the chairman and general manager have access to [those funds].”
Ruel Lasala, NBI deputy director for intelligence, said Morato, 79, surrendered to the agency at around 11 p.m. on Friday.
NBI agent Irvin Garcia told the Inquirer that someone from Morato’s camp called the agency to say that Morato wanted to surrender.
NBI agents went to the hospital and served on Morato the warrant of arrest that the graft court Sandiganbayan issued on Wednesday.
Morato called the Inquirer Saturday afternoon to say that “the same people questioning the confidential funds had actually used them.”
“I am referring to the current PCSO chairman (Margarita Juico) and general manager (Ferdinand Rojas),” he said.
Morato, who also served as PCSO chair during the Ramos administration, said he learned about it when he was “designated spokesperson of the past PCSO board.”
“It’s not true, [it’s] absolutely false,” Rojas said when reached for comment on Morato’s claim.
“The intelligence funds we used when we took over up until December 2010 were approximately P3 million,” Rojas said by phone. “We have records to prove it.”
The Inquirer also tried to contact Juico for comment, but she did not answer her phone or return text messages.
Arroyo and the members of PCSO board during her administration were ordered arrested by the Sandiganbayan’s First Division on Wednesday, after finding probable cause to prosecute them on charges of plunder for allegedly misusing P325 million in PCSO intelligence funds from 2008 to 2010.
Besides Arroyo and Morato, also ordered arrested were former PCSO Chair Sergio Valencia; General Manager Rosario Uriarte; Directors Raymundo Roquero, Jose Taruc V and Ma. Fatima Valdes; Assistant General Manager Benigno Aguas; former Commission on Audit (COA) Chair Reynaldo Villar, and former COA-Bicol chief Nilda Plaras.
Morato, who has asked the Sandiganbayan to dismiss the charges brought against him, said he had nothing to do with the disposition of intelligence funds at the PCSO.
No formal turnover
Valencia and Uriarte “should be given a chance to explain, in fairness to them,” Morato said.
“There’s no formal turnover of documents related to the intelligence funds. Margie Juico and company prevented her [Uriarte] from doing so. The documents they presented to the Ombudsman were doctored to make it appear that all of us are criminals,” he said.
Morato insisted “there is nothing for me to explain for I never saw nor touched any of the intelligence funds being questioned by Margie and her cohorts.”
Actually, Morato said, the “PCSO had always had intelligence funds to combat illegal gambling and lotto scammers.”
“Even in the past, presidents extended the intelligence funds,” he said.
“As to the amount given to [the] media, that the questioned intel funds were over P300 million, supposedly cumulative for three years, I was told they only used the figures for shock-and-awe,” he said.
No chance at defense
Morato decried the way the investigation of the case brought by the party-list group Akbayan was handled.
“We’re not given a chance to be heard by the [Ombudsman], which obviously took the side of Akbayan, which Margie Juico had funded to go against us,” he said.
“That plunder case was filed in July 2011 based only on what they supposedly saw on the TV coverage of the Senate hearing of alleged PCSO anomalies. Worse, whatever we put in our motions before the Ombudsman were not heard. It’s dismissal after dismissal of our motions. Apparently, they didn’t want to hear our side,” he said.
“We fell prey to a kangaroo court. Yes, a kangaroo court,” he said.
“I am really saddened there seems to be no law anymore,” he said.
Morato said he was in hospital “undergoing treatment for a recurring heart ailment.”
“I’ve been in and out of hospital since February. I hope my condition will not deteriorate,” he added.
NBI agent Garcia said a lawyer was with Morato when the arrest warrant was served on him.
“No medical instrument was attached to his body” when Morato was arrested, Garcia said.
“He complained of heart illness and hypertension,” Garcia said.
Morato’s attending physicians promised to issue a medical certificate to the NBI, he added.
“We will return the warrant [to the Sandiganbayan] on Monday and attached to it should be the medical certificate,” Garcia said.
Where to hold Morato
He said the NBI would wait for the court’s decision on where to detain Morato, whether in the hospital or in an NBI cell.
If Morato is discharged from the hospital, he will be held in an NBI cell.
“He is under our custody [so he] will be detained in the NBI jail,” Garcia said.
NBI agents are guarding Morato at the hospital.
Also on Saturday, Claro Castro, head of the NBI’s Foreign Liaison Division, said “a red notice will be requested [from the Interpol] against other plunder suspects who have been reported to have fled the country.”
“We are now in the process of validating all information that one of the accused had left the country. We will request for a red notice as soon as we have it confirmed,” Castro said, referring to Taruc, who reportedly left the Philippines in July on a Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong.
Arroyo in hospital
At Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City, Arroyo was scheduled to undergo blood extraction on Saturday and an electromyelogram in the coming days to determine the cause of the numbness in her hands.
Arroyo was admitted to the military hospital on Thursday morning complaining of “generalized body weakness, numbness of hands and dehydration.”
Detained at VMMC
Police arrested her in the hospital on the same day. She is detained there pending a Sandiganbayan ruling on where she should be held.
Arroyo was also held at VMMC from November last year to July. She left the hospital after being allowed to post bail in an electoral sabotage case being heard by a Pasay City court. With reports from Nancy Carvajal, Tina Santos and Julie M. Aurelio
First posted 12:05 am | Sunday, October 7th, 2012