MANILA, Philippines – Find the "missing link."
Senate President Franklin Drilon on Thursday, July 21, urged Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to find former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office general manager Rosario Uriarte to testify against former President Gloria Arroyo over the questionable PCSO intelligence funds.
Had Uriarte been presented as evidence, Drilon said the case would have been "stronger."
“Rosario Uriarte, being the general and vice chairman of the board at the time, is the missing link in the evidence presented by the prosecution. To my knowledge, and I can be corrected, Rosario Uriarte was never presented as a a witness in the criminal case because she disappeared,” Drilon said on Thursday, July 21.
Uriarte, whose public location remains unknown, was a "key witness" in the Senate investigation in 2011. She earlier testified, according to Drilon, that it was Arroyo who personally approved the questionable PCSO intelligence budget. (READ: TIMELINE: Gloria Arroyo – from plunder to acquittal)
“I urge the Ombudsman at this point to check whether or not Uriarte has left the country or her whereabouts,” Drilon said.
If Uriarte is abroad, Drilon said the Ombudsman could track her and determine if she is in a country with existing extradition treaty with the Philippines.
Her disappearance is a sign of guilt "as a principle of evidence," said the senator.
“That can easily be checked….Then if she is in a country where we have an extradition treaty, the Ombudsman should take the effort now to bring her back to the country so she can be justified as a state witness or be confronted with her documents, testimony in the Senate hearing,” he added.
Drilon – a party mate of former President Benigno Aquino III – expressed dismay over the SC decision freeing Arroyo.
"What was required was appreciation of evidence presented. I cannot pass judgment because I haven’t seen the decision. I was saddened and disappointed. As an officer of the court, a lawyer, and former justice secretary, I respect the decision of the Supreme Court," he said.
Asked about the prosecution and the quality of evidence presented, Drilon refused to comment. After all, he said, he has neither seen nor read any documents on the case.
While the High Court has already dismissed the plunder case against Arroyo, the Ombudsman is not keen on backing down.
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email email@example.com