Witness directly links Arroyo to PCSO fund mess

A prosecution witness directly implicates former President Arroyo in the alleged misuse of PCSO funds

MANILA, Philippines – A prosecution witness on Tuesday, October 30 directly implicated former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the entire Board of Directors of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte and budget officer Benigno Aguas to irregularities in the handling of millions of pesos in confidential intelligence funds of the agency.
Aleta L. Tolentino, a certified public accountant, lawyer and professor, told the Sandiganbayan’s First Division that Arroyo signed “Ok, GMA” in 7 letter/memoranda sent to her by Uriarte from 2008 to 2009. The letters sought presidential approval of the President for huge sums from the operating funds of PCSO to be converted into confidential intelligence funds.
According to her, the entire PCSO Board of Directors earlier approved a resolution designating Uriarte as “special disbursing officer of confidential intelligence funds.” This  enabled the latter to transact directly with Arroyo.
The Board was composed of former PCSO chairman Sergio Valencia and directors Jose Taruc V, Manuel Morato, Raymundo T. Roquero and Ma. Fatima A. S. Valdes.

The court is hearing a plunder case filed against Arroyo and 9 former government officlals in connection with the PCSO fund mess.

PCSO Budget and Accounts Manager Benigno Aguas reportedly certified that funds were available although Tolentino said PCSO had been operating on a deficit due to excessive expenditures and has been unlawfully “juggling” funds.
Based on the annual audit reports (AAR) submitted in court, the PCSO burned through P225.75 million in “confidential, extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses” in 2006; P77.48 million in 2007; P38.39 million in 2008 and 203.2 million in 2009.
Tolentino said that in 2006, PCSO’s corporate operating budget had a deficit of P1.078 billion.
She explained that the shortfall was patched through the “co-mingling” of the main account of the agency’s Prize Funds and Charity Funds, both of which should have been separate and distinct under the PCSO charter (RA 1169).
“Cash for charity and Prize Funds [was] not deposited despite recommendations of the Commission on Audit in its 2008 AAR. It was a violation of the PCSO Charter, COA rules and generally-accepted accounting principles,” the witness said.
Tolentino was not able to complete her testimony due to lack of time. The hearing will resume Wednesday morning, October 31, at 8:30 am. After this, she will be subjected to cross-examination by the lawyers of Aguas, Valencia and Morato who have petitioned the court to set their bail bonds, claiming the prosecution’s evidence was weak. – Rappler.com

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