Sandiganbayan: Enough evidence vs ex-PCSO execs in illegal perks case

MANILA, Philippines – They may have been acquitted in the P366-million Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) intelligence fund scam, but 3 former officials are not yet off the hook in an illegal perks case.

The Sandiganbayan 6th Division denied the former officials' separate motions for leave to file demurrer to evidence, a pleading that says the prosecution's evidence is weak enough to warrant outright dismissal of the case.

"After a careful study of the documentary and testimonial evidence submitted by the prosecution, the court finds that, if unrebutted, the same is sufficient to support a verdict of guilt," said the Sandiganbayan 6th Division in a ruling penned by Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez, with concurrences from Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Kevin Narce Vivero.

Former PCSO general manager and board vice chairperson Rosario Uriarte and former board directors Jose Taruc V and Fatima Valdes will now have to proceed to the defense presentation phase of trial for graft and violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Uriarte, Taruc, and Valdes are accused of accepting all-expenses paid trips to Australia from private contractor TMA Group of Companies in February 2010. TMA had a joint venture agreement with the PCSO.

Uriarte reasoned that the trip to Australia happened after the deal was already signed.

The 3 former officials also argued in their motions that the witnesses were mere records custodians who testified that documents existed.

Uriarte, Taruc, and Valdes were among 10 government officials who were charged with plunder in the PCSO intelligence fund scam. Former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was acquitted in July 2016, and the Supreme Court decision on her paved the way for the acquittal of Uriarte, who was said to be the missing link in the entire case.

The P366-million fund remains unaccounted for. –