Former COA chair may be liable in PCSO fund mess–Drilon
Even then Commission on Audit (COA) Chair Reynaldo Villar could be a party to the “cover-up” of the possible misuse of funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) under the Arroyo administration, Sen. Franklin Drilon said on Sunday.
Then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo approved the request of Rosario Uriarte, the PCSO general manager at the time, for additional intelligence funds totaling P325 million from 2008 to 2010.
Quoting COA auditors, Drilon said Villar “hastily approved” the liquidation by Uriarte of P17.5 million in “intelligence fund” in June 2010.
The amount, Drilon said, was withdrawn by the PCSO from Philippine National Bank (PNB) in three installments in the last three weeks of Arroyo’s term.
Drilon said that Villar issued a credit memorandum “immediately” after Uriarte submitted documents liquidating the amount, in effect approving the liquidation.
“With haste, Villar passed this in audit in the last two weeks. Is this usual? Audit takes years or at least months in this case. Why the haste in liquidating it? This is deplorable,” the senator said in an interview.
“There was undue haste. It was part of a cover-up,” he added.
Drilon said it was not far-fetched that Villar also approved the liquidation of the rest of the P325 million in additional intelligence funds in the last two years of the past administration.
“If it was part of a conspiracy, yes [he could face charges],” the senator said on the phone, adding he could not specify the charges yet.
Out of the PCSO’s P325-million “intelligence fund” from 2008 to 2010, then President Arroyo approved P160 million in 2010, when the presidential election was held, Uriarte told the Senate blue ribbon committee on Thursday.
Of the P160 million, PNB issued three checks to the PCSO in June 2010 alone: P5 million on June 11; P2.5 million and P10 million on June 18, according to documents submitted to the committee.
“These were all part of the P160 million requested in 2010,” Drilon said.
Villar’s term expired in February this year.
Drilon, a member of the Senate blue ribbon committee, asked new COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan to review Villar’s approval of the liquidation of the PCSO’s intelligence fund, and “if warranted,” reverse it.
“So that at the very least Uriarte can be required to reimburse,” he said.
Uriarte, also the former vice chair of the PCSO board, testified that she had requested the P325 million in additional intelligence fund to cover the roll-out of the small town lottery and stamp out illegal numbers games.
On top of this, the fund was used to counter fraudulent schemes and pay “blood money” for the deaths of Filipino workers murdered in Saudi Arabia as well as for relief operations for typhoon victims, she said.
As required by COA rules, Arroyo approved the PCSO memoranda requesting the amounts by either affixing her signature or initials in her presence, Uriarte said.
Some senators said that Arroyo could face plunder charges for approving the fund’s use for possibly nonexistent projects.
On Sunday, Sen. Francis Escudero said there was “probable cause” to file charges for malversation of funds against Arroyo and even Uriarte herself over the misuse of the PCSO funds.
“She’s the one who approved it. According to Uriarte, she was aware of where the fund was being spent for. It is enough to establish prima facie case or probable cause to file a case against her,” Escudero said of Arroyo in an interview over dzBB.
Plunder would be harder to prove since one has to prove that the accused personally gained from it, he said.
Job of Ombudsman
Drilon said he was not in favor inviting Arroyo to the Senate inquiry, as it was the job of the Ombudsman “to ask for an explanation.”
He said it was Arroyo’s call whether to appear in the inquiry, which resumes on Wednesday.
Escudero also said that the Senate or even the Department of Justice should also conduct a lifestyle check on Uriarte to determine if she had acquired property beyond her official income.
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