Sandigan denies house arrest bid of ex-PCSO official in plunder case

MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan has denied the motions for house arrest and bail for former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) general manager Rosario Uriarte, who is charged with plunder over the P366-million PCSO intelligence fund scam.

Uriarte was formerly charged, along with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was under hospital arrest, until she was acquitted by the Supreme Court in July 2016.

In a resolution penned by the Sandiganbayan's first division, the court ruled that Uriarte was unable to provide strong evidence that the hospital facilities at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) custodial center are not enough to address her health requirements.

Uriarte was earlier diagnosed with breast cancer, and needs to undergo chemotherapy sessions for the malignant mass in her right breast.

According to the court, her confinement at the St Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City for her chemo sessions already addresses her health needs.

Uriarte cited episodes of high fever and low blood counts – effects of the chemo – as humanitarian reasons for her house arrest bid.

“The foregoing predicates laid by accused Uriarte in support of her bid for home confinement and temporary liberty are matters which are already currently being addressed by her confinement at SLMC-QC, a hospital of her choice, where she is given the needed medical attention by her chosen doctors,” Justice Efren de la Cruz said in his resolution, with concurrences from Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Bernelito Fernandez.

The court also denied Uriarte’s motion for bail, saying it is procedural that hearings are held first.

In her motion, Uriarte appealed for the same rules to be applied to her when the SC granted bail to former senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who is also charged with plunder over the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam.

However, the anti-graft court said the Enrile case could not be applied to Uriarte because she is a flight risk.

Uriarte went into hiding for 4 years before she surrendered last November.

“It is emphasized in Enrile that the primary objective of bail is to ensure that the accused appears at the trial. Indeed, considering that accused Uriarte submitted to the jurisdiction of this court only after four years despite knowledge of the present case against her negates her contention that she is not a flight risk,” the court’s resolution said.

Uriarte also cited the SC’s acquittal of Arroyo, saying that the High Tribunal has signified that there is “no sufficient evidence to prove that she committed the crime of plunder.”

“It is still premature for accused Uriarte to invoke the pronouncement in Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo v People because it is not yet final and executory. The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the motion for reconsideration of the People,” the court said.

Uriarte was charged with graft earlier this month, in connection with travel perks she received from a government contractor. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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