Bid for holiday furlough by ex-PCSO execs opposedBy Cynthia D. Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
State prosecutors have asked the Sandiganbayan to reject for lack of legal basis the request of three former officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) accused of plunder in connection with the alleged misuse of some P366 million in PCSO intelligence funds to spend Christmas and New Year in their respective homes.
Ombudsman prosecutors Ma. Hazelina Tujan-Militante and Julieta Zinnia Niduanza said former PCSO chairman Sergio Valencia, former board member Manuel Morato and former budget officer Benigno Aguas were taking advantage of the compassion and magnanimity of the court because of the yuletide season rather than what is allowed by law.
They said that giving them temporary liberty would open the door to every detained person to apply for a prison furlough to celebrate the holiday season outside jail.
Morato, however, who is under hospital arrest, insisted on house arrest following heart surgery October this year.
But the prosecution repeatedly opposed the grant of house arrest, saying that Morato was already allowed to be confined at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City under the custody of the National Bureau of Investigation precisely because of his medical condition.
It said Morato’s continued stay in hospital would enable doctors to immediately respond to his medical needs.
“To allow him (Morato) to go on hospital leave this holiday season will be risky to his very delicate physical condition,” the prosecutors said.
“Considering the serious physical condition of Morato that he needs close medical monitoring, it would be more advantageous to his health to stay under hospital arrest than to be exposed to other people to avoid infection,” they added.
In the case of Valencia and Aguas, the prosecutors said it would be more advantageous to the personal safety of the accused that they continue to be detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
The Sandigabayan is also set to rule this week on the request of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to spend the holidays in Lubao, Pampanga.
The prosecution earlier opposed Arroyo’s motion, citing security and health reasons.
Arroyo is the principal accused in the PCSO plunder case that includes former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte; former directors Raymundo Roquero, Jose Taruc V and Ma. Fatima Valdes; former Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Reynaldo Villar and COA Region V head Nilda Paras.
A resolution earlier signed by all three justices of the Sandiganbayan’s First Division said there was no sufficient basis to disturb the Ombudsman’s findings that the 10 had conspired to embezzle the P366 million confidential and intelligence fund of the PCSO.