Plunder Vs GMA

MANILA, Philippines --- The Office of the Ombudsman on Monday filed plunder charges against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and nine other former state officials, mostly of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), for allegedly misusing P365,997,915 in PCSO funds.

It was the first plunder case against Arroyo who is under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City for electoral sabotage during the 2007 senatorial election.

Also named respondents in the 10-page complaint filed before the Sandiganbayan are former PCSO General Manager Rosario Uriarte, Assistant General Manager for Finance Benigno Aguas, and former PCSO board members Sergio Valencia, Manuel Morato, Raymon Roquero, Maria Fatima Valdez and Jose R. Taruc V.

Former Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Reynaldo Villar and COA Region 5 head Nilda Plaras were also named in the complaint.

PCSO Director Aleta Tolentino earlier said the COA officials were included because of their "conspiracy and connivance."

No bail was recommended for the accused, said the Sandiganbayan.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales approved the plunder case.

Based on the information filed by the Ombudsman, Arroyo and her nine co-accused conspired and connived to acquire ill-gotten wealth from the PCSO from January 2008 to June 2010.

Morales underscored the evidence that indicated Uriarte wrote to Arroyo eight times requesting that she be allowed to draw from the agency's intelligence fund.

The money to be drawn from the fund was supposed to have been used "to monitor the PCSO's charitable activities and projects; to buy information to determine if the funds were being used for the purposes for which [they] were intended; to fund an investigation of how medicine given to beneficiaries marked "Botika ng Masa" had ended up in commercial markets, and to counter various scams victimizing lotto bettors and winners."

Morales earlier filed a graft case against Arroyo in connection with the $329-million national broadband (NBN) deal with China's ZTE.

An inquiry by the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee earlier showed Arroyo approved Uriarte's request to draw from the intelligence fund. The investigation showed the money was used instead to purchase relief goods and pay "blood money" for the freedom if detained overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Uriarte allegedly got nearly P310 million, more than half of which were withdrawn in the first six months of 2010, an election year.

The investigation showed that the funds were liquidated with a mere certification, and transferred in the respondents' possession and control through irregularly-issued disbursement vouchers and fictitious expenditures.

The Ombudsman said the accused took advantage of their positions, authority, relationships, connections or influence to enrich themselves.

The complaint sheet alleged that the respondents "conspired in withdrawing, amassing, accumulating public funds from July 2008 to January 2010 and by circumventing and/or violating the subject COA circulars relative to the liquidation of complainant PCSO's intelligence/confidential funds."