Manila, Philippines – The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on Tuesday, January 24, recommended the filing of plunder charges against former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) Vice-chairman and General Manager Rosario Uriarte for failing to account for “excessive amounts” of intelligence funds released .
The committee also recommended that similar charges be filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who approved of the fund disbursals through “mere marginal notes,” in request Uriarte.
“While they were public officers, Gloria Arroyo and Rosario Uriarte teamed up to rob this nation of at least P244.5M,” said Blue Ribbon committee chair Teofisto Guingona III.
Through mere marginal notes, Guingona noted, and Arroyo caused the release of millions of pesos to her partner, Uriarte, who was in charge of the disbursement, use, and liquidation of excessive amounts of PCSO intelligence funds.
Because of the excessive amounts released, the Blue Ribbon Committee asked for proof of lawful use of public funds, Guingona noted.
He said, however, that neither Gloria Arroyo nor Rosario Uriarte ever presented the actual receipts and documents to prove that these funds were indeed used lawfully.
“Not a single receipt has been presented by Gloria Arroyo or Rosario Uriarte to save themselves.”
The committee noted that disbursements were liquidated by mere certifications of Mrs. Uriarte that the funds were used for a variety of reasons. “Liquidation receipts were never presented” by either Mrs. Uriarte or GMA.
Because of this, he said the Committee “strongly believes that there is probable cause to believe that these funds were in fact illegally diverted into the pockets of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.”
Blue Ribbon Committee report on the PCSO intel funds
The committee also noted that before Uriarte became General Manager in 2008, the offices of the Chair and the Vice-chair of the PCSO were only allotted P5 million each in the form of a regular fund devoted for confidential/ intelligence purposes.
However, from 2008 to 2010, while Uriarte was General Manager, she requested for the release of as much as P325 million in additional intelligence funds for various purposes through several memoranda to the office of then President Arroyo.
In certifications Uriarte submitted to the Commission on Audit, these additional releases were designated as “Special Fund” and the notation, “By Special Authority of the President,” appeared in the documents.
“Neither common sense nor meticulous analysis can explain the necessity, relevance, and reasonableness of the sudden bloat in the CIF budget of the PCSO,” the Committee report said.
In 2010 alone, the committee report noted, PCSO’s intelligence expenses exceeded the intel funds of various agencies comprising the government’s security sector, to wit:
- it is 12.5 times larger than the intel funds of the Philippine Army,
- 2.357 times larger than that of the Intelligence Service Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP),
- 4.55 times larger than the defense department’s
- over 6 times larger than the Navy’s
- 8.3 times larger than the NBI’s budget for intel
“Threats” not related to PCSO operations
In memoranda requesting for the additional intel funds, Uriarte cited the need to address threats against the operations of the PCSO.
In the past, such “threats to operations” included:
- Incidents where medicines with Botika ng Masa labels of PCSO ended up for sale in the commercial market
- Incidents where some drugs and medicines procured for the Botika ng Masa projects were not listed in the National Drug Formulary and were not procured from DOH-accredited suppliers
- Instances where PCSO ambulances were used for commercial purposes and as “getaway” vehicle in transporting prohibited drugs
- Syndicates operating to convince certain persons to deposit certain amounts to an account so that these persons can, supposedly, claim their winnings from the PCSO
The committee noted, however, that Uriarte’s own certifications immediately show the funds were allegedly also used to “address terrorism, bomb threats, and bilateral security relations.”
The Blue Ribbon committee conducted its hearings on the PCSO intel funds in July 2010.
Among the matters the committee investigated were donations made by the PCSO to ranking clerics of the Roman Catholic Church. – Rappler.com