Gloria Arroyo’s son hits back at PCSO | Inquirer News

Gloria Arroyo’s son hits back at PCSO

/ 03:08 AM July 05, 2011

A son of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo assailed the new management of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) for portraying recipients of its ambulances and endowment funds as “villains.”

Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado “Dato” Macapagal-Arroyo said giving out ambulances and endowments for the poor’s medical and hospital expenses was part of the PCSO mandate.

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Dato Arroyo was one of the 29 members of the House of Representatives who received PCSO ambulances without paying at least 40 percent of the vehicles’ price, a violation of the charity agency’s policy.

PCSO General Manager Ferdinand Rojas II on Sunday said that the politicians also emblazoned the ambulances with their images and names, and used them for nonmedical purposes.

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PCSO documents showed that a total of 314 ambulances were given to 29 lawmakers and 65 governors during the second half of the Arroyo administration, a period marked by calls for President Arroyo’s resignation and filing of impeachment cases against her. Each ambulance cost about P1 million.

“If the present officials of the PCSO can cite any law that was violated by the said donation they should instead bring their case to the proper forum and not through media,” Dato Arroyo said in a statement.

Congressional probe

The Camarines Sur lawmaker urged Rojas to be more circumspect in dealing with the issue.

“I support any congressional investigation to separate fact from fiction to stop being demonized in media for doing our congressional duties,” Dato Arroyo said.

A former governor listed as having received ambulances from the PCSO said five vehicles were handed over to the provincial government in September 2007.

Former Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio said the vehicles were among the eight ambulances requested by his predecessor, former Gov. Mark Lapid, for the nine district hospitals and the provincial hospital.

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“The other three were no longer given due to [my] falling out with PGMA (former President Arroyo),” Panlilio said, referring to his disclosure of receiving P500,000 after he joined a meeting of local officials with President Arroyo, then facing a threat of impeachment, in Malacañang.

Photo-op

Panlilio said the PCSO required him to personally receive the ambulances for “photo-op (photo opportunity) only.”

“In fact, the photo-op was supposed to be with then Rep. Mikey Arroyo but he was not able to come,” he said.

The ambulances were issued to Diosdado Pangan Macapagal Memorial Hospital, Porac District Hospital, Romana Pangan District Hospital, San Luis District Hospital and Balitucan District Hospital. The ambulances sport the photograph and name of Arroyo.

“I never had my face or name posted on these ambulances as it had been my policy not to ascribe my name or face in any government-funded project or program,” Panlilio said.

The provincial government during his term, he said, did not avail itself of PCSO ambulances under a 60-40 percent arrangement because these were assessed to be “overvalued.”

Lagman denial

House Minority Leader Edcel Lagman also denied that he was among the lawmakers who received an ambulance from the PCSO.

“Either somebody must have used my name or the PCSO has erroneous records. I challenge the PCSO management to produce any document which shows that I received a PCSO ambulance,” Lagman said in a statement.

Former House Speaker Prospero Nograles said he merely facilitated the request for ambulance donations and that the PCSO turned these over directly to Davao Medical Center and the Emergency 911 project of Davao City.

In a statement, Nograles said the donations should not be generalized as part of “political patronage” considering that even critics of the Arroyo administration were among the recipients of endowment funds (P5 million for Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez) and ambulances (Panlilio).

Acceptable

In a text message, Aurora Rep. Jose Edgardo Angara said receiving PCSO funds was “acceptable” as long as the money went to the indigent constituents of lawmakers.

In Pangasinan, Gov. Amado Espino Jr. said the provincial government did not get the 18 ambulances from the PCSO for free.

“We paid our share of 40 percent,” Espino said.

Based on records from the provincial accountant’s office, the province paid a counterpart of P356,000 for every ambulance it received in 2009 and 2010.

Cost-sharing scheme

Dr. Jackson Soriano, director of Pangasinan Provincial Hospital, said the cost-sharing scheme was embodied in a memorandum of agreement between the PCSO and the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines.

Pangasinan runs a provincial hospital, six district hospitals and seven community hospitals serving at least 2.6 million residents.

Espino said when he assumed office in 2007, the ambulances in the hospitals were already 10 years old and were no longer in good running condition.

With the new ambulances, maternal and infant mortality rates in the province went down because mothers can now be immediately taken to the hospitals to give birth, he said.

Nothing wrong

In Ilocos Sur, Vice Gov. Deogracias Victor Savellano said there was nothing wrong when the province accepted 20 ambulances during his term as governor.

“We thank former President Arroyo for the ambulances to help solve health concerns, particularly transporting patients, in the province,” he said.

Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino said he asked the PCSO for an ambulance but this was given to the Association of Barangay Captains in Gapan City.

In Bulacan, San Rafael Mayor Lorna Silverio, a former representative of the third district, said her office received funds from PCSO but these were used for the hospital expenses and other medical needs of her constituents during her term from 2007 to 2010.

Due process

In Tarlac, former Capas Mayor Reynaldo Catacutan, the former president of the Tarlac Mayors League, said he received two ambulances from PCSO in 2007 and 2009 but he said the donations underwent due process.

“Yes, I received an ambulance from PCSO as the national government’s counterpart in our Ospital ning Capas project. It was delivered to us in August 2009 after I [asked Arroyo] to help us in our hospital project. Malacañang referred my request to the PCSO,” Catacutan said.

“The MOA between PCSO and Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines that requires [local government] recipients to shoulder 40 percent of the cost of ambulances donated by PCSO was not implemented until January 2010,” Catacutan said.

No counterpart fund

Legislators in Panay confirmed that they did not shoulder any part of the cost of the vehicles.

Aklan Rep. Florencio Miraflores said he received an ambulance from the PCSO sometime in 2007 which was turned over to Ibajay District Hospital in Aklan.

The ambulance was granted to his district without any cost shouldered by the local government unit or his office, Miraflores told the Inquirer in an overseas call.

Former Capiz Rep. Rodriguez Dadivas said he also received an ambulance sometime between 2004 and 2007 which he had requested. The ambulance was turned over to the Roxas City health office which is still being used until now.

“We understood it as a grant from President Arroyo and no equity was required,” Dadivas said in a telephone interview.

Gov. Exequiel Javier, a former Antique congressman, said he could have received an ambulance at the time when no equity was required. He said he turned over the vehicle to the rural health unit of Culasi town in Antique.

Mercado

For his part, Southern Leyte Rep. Roger Mercado lamented the donation of ambulances being made an issue when it was part of the health services program of the government.

Mercado received 22 ambulances for his district during the term of former President Arroyo.

He maintained that he did not see anything wrong with donated ambulances. “Should there be investigation, they should investigate the giver not the beneficiaries,” Mercado said.

Emerito Montealto, a staff member of late Samar Rep. Reynaldo Uy, said the congressman had received an ambulance from the PCSO.

Montealto maintained that there was nothing irregular in the donation since it went through the normal process.

He said Uy received the ambulance in 2007 and has since been used by the Calbayog District Hospital.

Uy, who was gunned down last April 30 of this year, was an ally of Arroyo though he was affiliated with the Liberal Party. Reports from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr. in Manila; Tonette Orejas, Jun Malig, Armand Galang and Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon; Gabriel Cardinoza and Leoncio Balbin Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon; and Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Jani Arnaiz and Joey Gabieta, Inquirer Visayas

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TAGS: ambulances, Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado Dado Macapagal-Arroyo, endowment funds, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO)
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