Ombudsman dismisses last plunder complaint vs Arroyo
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the last plunder complaint filed by former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales against former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo involving charges that the former chief executive misused millions in funds of the state-run Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
Three years after Morales filed a complaint pertaining to charges that over P57 million worth of PCSO intelligence funds were allegedly misused from 2004 to 2007, Arroyo was cleared of plunder and malversation of public funds as well as violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
A 10-page resolution penned by Graft and Investigation Officer III Lucielo Ramirez Jr and approved by Ombudsman Samuel Martires on September 25, said there was "no probable cause to indict respondents for the crimes charged."
In its February ruling, the Ombudsman likened the complaint to a similar case against Arroyo tackled and dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2016.
“The question involving the use of the PCSO’s CIF (confidential intelligence fund) is not novel. In a similar case involving the use of the PCSO’s CIF for CYs 2008 to 2010, the Supreme Court dismissed the case against Arroyo and (former PCSO budget officer Benigno) Aguas," the decision read.
The latest plunder case against Arroyo was filed in 2016 after the Supreme Court (SC) dismissed in the same year the plunder case filed in 2012 by the Ombudsman against the former president and 9 other former government officials. (READ: TIMELINE: Gloria Arroyo – from plunder to acquittal)
The Ombudsman's 2012 plunder case against Arroyo saw the former president and other government charged with conspiring to amass, accumulate, and acquire ill-gotten wealth amounting to almost P366 million through a combination or series of acts from 2008 to 2010. The High Court, however, dismissed the criminal case for "insufficiency of evidence."
What the case involved: In filing the last case in 2016, Morales had claimed there was sufficient evidence to pursue the plunder case against Arroyo despite the SC's dismissal of its previous case.
The newer case, for one, involved a different time period (2004 to 2007). Case records showed former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte repeatedly asked the Office of the President for bigger intelligence budgets, which Arroyo approved by scribbling “ok” on the margins of letter requests.
The money, Uriarte and Aguas claimed, were used address security problems of the PCSO and the country by funding operations to counter “fraud and threat that affect integrity of operations”; “bomb threats, kidnapping, destabilization, and terrorism”; and “bilateral and security relations.”
These operations were supposed to have been accomplished with the military, police, and National Bureau of Investigation. However, intelligence chiefs of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, NBI, and Philippine National Police denied requesting for intelligence funds.
Aguas, who was also covered by the case, likewise testified under oath that P244 million of the supposedly misused PCSO funds went to the Office of the President.
Under Martires, the Ombudsman recalled the High Court ruled that the prosecution did not prove the existence of conspiracy among Arroyo, Aguas, and Uriarte. It also noted the Court ruled there was "no proof" ill-gotten wealth of at least P50 million were acquired by Arroyo and Aguas and that the prosecution "failed to prove the predicate act of raiding the public coffers."
The Ombudsman ruled the "factual circumstances" under which the 2016 complaint was based were "essentially similar" to the case tackled and dismissed by the Supreme Court.
In line with this, the Ombudsman thus ruled that following the SC case, disbursement of intelligence funds from 2004 to 2007 were "lawful." It also ruled that the documents submitted to prove CIFs were diverted or misappropriated were "insufficient."
"At this point, a discussion on the allegation of conspiracy among respondent becomes irrelevant," the Ombudsman said.
In the clear: In a statement on Sunday, December 1, Arroyo's counsel Laurence Arroyo welcomed the Ombudsman's dismissal of the complaint, saying, "It takes as much moral courage and intellectual honesty to dismiss a case as it does to file and prosecute one."
Aside from Arroyo, Uriarte, Aguas, former PCSO Board chairman Sergio Valencia, Treasury Department manager Gloria Araullo, and former Commission on Audit assistant commissioner Lourdes Dimapilis, and director Nilda Plaras were cleared of any criminal liabilty.
The Ombudsman's decision clearing Arroyo is the latest in Martires' revering past actions of Morales.
Among those Martires recently withdrew were charges of graft and usurpation of authority against former president Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III over the Mamasapano bloodbath and charges against former Coast Guard officials in an alleged P67.5 million anomalous supplies purchase. – Rappler.com