Millions of pesos of PCSO intel funds used for ‘blood money’
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MANILA, Philippines – Senators are pushing for reforms in the use of intelligence funds by the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) after an inquiry into their status revealed that millions of pesos were either used for “blood money” or were unaccounted for under the Arroyo administration.
The senators made the proposal Thursday at the resumption of the blue ribbon committee’s investigation into the PCSO controversy.
Appearing before the Senate blue ribbon committee for the first time since her appointment as new commissioner of the Commission on Audit, Heidi Mendoza said that in 2007 alone, over P54 million in PCSO intelligence funds were not liquidated after PCSO officials certified that there were no records on how the money was used.
“Until now, we cannot find the records. The previous chairperson certified that when they came in, the records were no longer in existence. We cannot find them. No credit advice was given,” Mendoza said.
Prior to Mendoza’s testimony, PCSO officials, led by its former chairman Sergio Valencia, and Rosario Uriarte, former general manager and vice chairperson, said that a large portion of the PCSO funds were used for “blood money” that was given to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) for Filipino workers overseas who needed the government’s help.
But foreign affairs undersecretary Esteban Conejos, who was also invited to the inquiry, denied that the DFA received the “blood money” but confirmed that three checks of P5 million each were issued and which could have been given directly to the families of the OFWs concerned.
Referring to documents, Senator Franklin Drilon also said that P17 million was spent for an OFW that was facing the death sentence in Kuwait in 2009.
When asked who gave the order to the PCSO to use its intelligence funds for “blood money,” Uriarte, who is in hot water after she revealed in a previous Senate hearing that she personally brought requests for disbursement to then President now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Malacanang, this time refused to answer.
She and Arroyo are facing plunder charges before the Office of the Ombudsman over the PCSO controversy.
“Kailangan ko pong ipagtanggol ang sarili ko [I need to defend myself],” Uriarte said, breaking down into tears.
In the same hearing, Drilon disclosed that from January-June 2010, which the senator said was “an election year”, Uriarte encashed P102.5 million at the Philippine National Bank, which Annabelle R. Fernandez , the bank’s sales and service head, certified in December 15 of the same year.
Uriarte again cited her right against self-incrimination when Drilon asked her where she brought the cash.
The senators also questioned the P116 million in intelligence funds that were spent in 2009, which Uriarte said were used to thwart “destabilization activities”.
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