MANILA, Philippines—A key witness in the plunder case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and other former officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) has admitted there was no proof where the allegedly plundered funds of the PCSO went. The illegal amassing of wealth is an element of plunder under the law.
PCSO board member Ma. Aleta Tolentino admitted she had no personal knowledge of the transactions allegedly undertaken by Arroyo and former PCSO board members.
During the cross-examination conducted by lawyer Peter Bantilan, counsel of former PCSO chair Sergio Valencia, last Jan. 25 to 26, Tolentino said the approval by former President Arroyo of the memorandum requests made by former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte for additional intelligence funds was both for an approval of the additional budget requested for intelligence funds and release of such additional intelligence funds.
Uriarte, Valencia and other PCSO officials are coaccused in the plunder case against Arroyo. Other former PCSO officials charged were former board members Manuel Morato, Jose Taruc V, Raymundo Roquero and Ma. Fatima Valdes; and former assistant general manager for finance Benigno Aguas.
From the testimony of Tolentino, it was clear that the confirmation by the former PCSO board of the Office of the President’s approval of the additional intelligence funds was “ministerial.”
Tolentino also agreed that the board resolutions signed by the accused PCSO board members did not indicate which memorandum requests made by Uriarte and approved by Arroyo were being confirmed. The board resolutions also did not mention the amount of intelligence funds whose approvals were being confirmed.
Tolentino also admitted that based on the documents she submitted, the amount of intelligence funds advanced by Valencia amounted to only P13.3 million, which is way below the threshold plunder amount of P50 million.
Valencia, as former chair of PCSO who was entitled to an annual confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) of P5 million, withdrew only P13.3 million from 2008 to 2010, below the P15 million ceiling for the period.
Tolentino also said she had no proof to show that the former PCSO chair disbursed more than this amount.