Court told of Arroyo hand in PCSO fund diversionBy Gil Cabacungan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
A Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) official testified Tuesday that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had a direct hand in the alleged diversion of P366-million confidential intelligence funds (CIF) from the agency in the last three years of her administration.
PCSO board director Ma. Aletta L. Tolentino described the “modus operandi” as involving former PCSO General Manager Rosario Uriarte drawing up a memorandum order requesting for the disbursement of the funds. The memo would then be signed by Arroyo and immediately approved by the PCSO board.
Tolentino and the prosecution team presented seven MOs that were all initialled by Arroyo (except for one which was signed by former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita) to show that there was an alleged conspiracy between Malacañang and the former PCSO officials to divert funds supposedly meant for charity and lotto prize winnings.
Tolentino, who cheerfully delivered her testimony throughout the two-hour hearing at the Sandiganbayan 1st Division, said the CIF disbursements were over and above the P10-million limit allowed in the PCSO charter.
The lawyers of Arroyo’s coaccused, former PCSO officials Sergio Valencia (chairman), Benigno Aguas (budget officer) and Manuel Morato (director) protested the presentation of evidence at this point of the trial but they were overruled by Sandibagayan Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz after lead prosecutor Diosdado Colange convinced him that Tolentino would be able to establish Arroyo’s alleged culpability.
Tolentino said she chaired the audit committee, which reviewed the PCSO’s annual audit reports for 2005 to 2009 that showed a pattern of “comingling” of funds (prize and charity) in violation of the PCSO charter to justify these massive disbursements.
Under the PCSO charter, 55 percent of lottery ticket sales have to be set aside as prize funds, 30 percent for charity funds, and 15 percent for the corporate operating budget.—With a report from Christine Avendaño