Co-accused in GMA plunder case surrenders

A former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office executive, a co-accused in the plunder case filed against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, finally surrendered to police yesterday morning.

Former PCSO board member Jose Taruc V surrendered to the Detection and Special Operations Unit of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Camp Crame. Taruc has a standing warrant of arrest issued by the Sandiganbayan in connection with plunder charges stemming from the alleged diversion of P365 million in PSCO funds.

Following his surrender, Taruc, through his lawyer Atty. Filibon Fabela Tacardon, immediately asked the graft court to grant him bail.

Taruc, with Arroyo and other officials of the PCSO and the Commission on Audit (COA, is facing plunder charges before the Sandiganbayan First Division docketed under Criminal Case Number SB12CRM0174.

The complaint stemmed from allegations that more than P365 million in PCSO operating budget were diverted to its Confidential/Intelligence Fund that were accessed for personal gain.

In his manifestation with urgent omnibus motion, Taruc said he is "willing to be arraigned and to enter his plea as regards the criminal information filed against him."

The accused also asked the graft court to grant his "application for bail and allow his provisional liberty upon posting bail--in such an amount as may be determined by this Honorable Sandiganbayan."

Though offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua like plunder are non-bailable, the motion said that the graft court can grant bail when evidence is weak like it did to Taruc's three co-accused, former PCSO Board of Directors Chairman Sergio Valencia and former PCSO Board of Directors members Manuel Morato, and Raymundo Roquero.

In his motion, Taruc expressed confidence that with the present evidence on record he can be granted bail "in the event that the Office of the Special Prosecutor has no other witness to present or that it has no other evidence to present against him."

Taruc also asked the graft court to allow him to be detained at the PNP Custodial Center pending the resolution of his application for bail.