Arroyo faces 4th plunder rap over PCSO intel funds | Inquirer News
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Arroyo faces 4th plunder rap over PCSO intel funds

By: - Reporter / @KatyYam
/ 01:33 AM January 18, 2012

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

The Senate blue ribbon committee wants former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Rosario Uriarte, former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) vice chairperson and general manager, charged with plunder and technical malversation for the release of P325 million in intelligence funds in the last three years of Arroyo’s term.

The committee said the P325 million disbursed as confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) was “grossly excessive and disproportionate to the claimed reasons for their release.”

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Under the law, a government official can be charged with plunder, a nonbailable offense, for the irregular use or pocketing of at least P50 million in public funds.

Three plunder cases have already been filed against Arroyo, stemming from her alleged misuse of PCSO intelligence funds.

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The committee’s 124-page report said Uriarte would not have obtained the huge amount from 2008 to the months leading to the 2010 elections without Arroyo’s approval as indicated by her signature in the margins of several memoranda that Uriarte personally delivered to Malacañang.

It also asked the Office of the Ombudsman to charge the two with “at least one count of technical malversation for using funds allotted for confidential/intelligence purposes for the payment and purchase of relief foods” and a separate technical malversation charge for using the same funds as “blood money” to pay the victims of overseas Filipino workers charged with murder.

Other individuals that the blue ribbon committee recommended for investigation by the Ombudsman include:

Manuel Garcia, former PCSO manager for public relations, for possible violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for allegedly demanding his “share” of payments made to at least two advertising agencies involved in the production of the agency’s advertisements.

Manuel Morato, former PCSO chair and board director, for electioneering or violation of the Omnibus Election Act for allegedly using the TV program “Dial M” produced using the agency’s funds to campaign for Lakas-Kampi presidential candidate Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro.

Anacleto Diaz, a lawyer of Arroyo, said his client was saddened by the committee’s recommendation.

Core services

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“The Senate report recklessly disregarded the point that former President Arroyo did not amass, accumulate or acquire any amount of the confidential and intelligence funds of the PCSO which was the subject of the Senate investigation,” Diaz said in a statement.

Under its charter, the PCSO’s “core services” include direct out-patient care through its charity clinic department, the grant of individual medical assistance programs to indigent patients, institutional assistance through endowment funds, donations of ambulance units to qualified institutions, and the issuance of medicine, equipment, wheelchairs and prosthetics to deserving indigents.

Since 2000, the PCSO had a yearly budget of only P5 million for intelligence work. The amount was used to track down parties involved in the sale of supposedly free medicines provided by the agency as well as  the unauthorized use of ambulances, and to identify unscrupulous persons who sell fake sweepstakes and lotto tickets to the public.

Expanded intel work

Under Uriarte’s watch, the range of intelligence activities was expanded to include “other fraudulent schemes and activities which put the PCSO in a bad light.”

For 2009 and 2010, the blue ribbon committee noted that Uriarte’s requests for additional CIF “were charged against the regular fund for confidential/intelligence purposes and not the special fund or the additional CIF requested from … Arroyo.”

“The PCSO is not an intelligence agency,” the blue ribbon panel contended. “Neither is it mandated to pursue complex intelligence operations,” yet the PCSO used intelligence funds for purposes related to “bomb threat, kidnapping, destabilization and terrorism,” as Uriarte indicated in the memoranda.

By Arroyo’s special authority

In one of six Senate hearings on the issue, Uriarte said she had written the memoranda to Arroyo requesting additional CIF, later released as “special funds” with the notation of “By special authority of the President.”

The committee established that Uriarte received a total of P75 million in 2008, P90 million in 2009 and P160 million in 2010.

To facilitate her requests for additional CIF, the committee said Uriarte “simply reproduced, with very minor modifications, the reasons cited by former (PCSO officers) in their previous requests for (allocation limited to) P10 million … of CIF.”

“But the glaring and suspicious differences in their requests, however, is the fact that Mrs. Uriarte requested P325 million, not just P10 million, despite the similarity of purposes for which these funds were requested,” the committee added.

It noted that Uriarte’s access to additional CIF was made possible “through the indispensable participation of … Arroyo.”

In one hearing, Uriarte confirmed the authenticity of the copies of some of her memoranda that the committee was able to obtain. The memos addressed to Arroyo were shown in a projector inside the Senate session hall.

Marginal notes

These included one, dated Jan. 19, 2009, requesting P50 million in additional CIF; a memo, dated April 2, 2009, for P25 million; a memo, dated Aug. 13, 2009, for P50 million; and a fourth memo, dated Jan. 4, 2010, for P150 million.

All memoranda carried marginal notes bearing either Arroyo’s signature or initials, which Uriarte said the former President had signed in front of her in Malacañang.

The blue ribbon committee said all funds “were liquidated by mere certifications but the existence of receipts and actual documents that would support these certifications is highly doubtful based on … Uriarte’s own conflicting and inconsistent testimonies.”

“Instead of immediately proving her innocence by producing the supporting documents to her own Commission on Audit (COA) certifications, … Uriarte hid beneath the defense of ‘I gave all the documents to GMA (Arroyo’s initials),” the committee report said.

“In order to liquidate these funds, … Uriarte merely submitted certifications to inform the COA that these funds were used to address ‘bomb threat, kidnapping, destabilization and terrorism’ and for ‘bilateral and security relation,’” the report said.

Terrorist-related activities

The blue ribbon panel learned that in 2009, the PCSO issued eight checks worth a total of P70 million for terrorist-related activities.

Two checks worth a total of P37 million, meanwhile, were issued for “bilateral-and security-relation” expenses.

It was Uriarte who certified the liquidation of these expenses, the committee said.

“If Uriarte or GMA was confident that these funds were used for public purposes, they could have easily ended the investigations and allegations raised in the hearings … by submitting the actual documents to prove the use of these funds,” it added.

“However, … Uriarte contradicted her own certification because when she was asked to produce the same documents, she immediately explained it was no longer possible to do so since she turned all these over to (the) former President,” the report said.

“Considering the allegations of unlawful acts on her part, … Uriarte could have saved herself if those documents, if proper, were presented. There is therefore reasonable ground to believe that these documents do not really exist,” it asserted.

Alarmed

The committee was particularly alarmed with the P137.5 million disbursed as CIF during the first six months of 2010 “out of the P150 million approved for use” for the entire year.

“One must be reminded again that this amount was incredibly larger than the amounts allocated to the agencies/offices that are clearly dependent on intelligence/confidential funds to execute their mandate,” the panel said.

“The lack of detailed liquidation documents and receipts and the facts and circumstances surrounding the release of these excessive amounts of money allow a reasonably prudent person to believe and conclude that the crime of plunder was committed,” it added.

Bigger than spy fund

The committee said the total amount of CIF released to Uriarte was even bigger than allocations given to institutions with a greater need for intelligence funds, including the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine Navy, Philippine Army, Department of National Defense and National Bureau of Investigation.

Following these, the blue ribbon committee said it strongly believed that at least P244.5 million of PCSO funds released to Uriarte from 2008 to 2010 were never used for public purposes but were “illegally siphoned into the pockets of Uriarte and Arroyo.”

Also, the report said Arroyo and Uriarte were liable for using a portion of the CIF worth P17 million for “blood money” to aid distressed OFWs accused of crimes abroad upon the former President’s orders.

The senate blue ribbon chairman, Teofisto Guingona III, was able to make Uriarte admit that no PCSO board resolution was issued to authorize this “altered use” of the CIF which the agency later wrote off as “bilateral and security relation” expenses.

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TAGS: Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, PCSO Fund Mess, PCSO intel funds, Plunder, Rosario Uriarte
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