Plunder case vs Arroyo ‘not part of Sona’-A A +A
By Max Sangil
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
THE Ombudsman's filing of plunder charges against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and nine others has nothing to do with the upcoming State of the Nation Address (Sona) of President Benigno Aquino III on July 23, Malacañang said.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the filing of charges against Arroyo was not politically motivated and the Ombudsman has taken sufficient time to determine if there was probable cause to file a case before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.
"We would like to categorically state that this was not a case filed on account of the upcoming State of the Nation Address by the President," said Lacierda.
"The Ombudsman has taken on an objective evaluation of the cases filed before them and it is up to them to determine whether a case can be filed," he added.
The Ombudsman filed Monday a P365-million ($8.7 million) plunder suit against Arroyo and nine other former officials of PCSO and the Commission on Audit (COA) for alleged misuse of PCSO's Confidential/Intelligence Funds (CIF).
The case stemmed from two separate complaints – one filed by Jaime Regalario, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and Danilo Lim on July 25, 2011 for plunder, malversation and violation of Republic Act 3019, or the "Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act"; and the other one was dated November 29, 2011, filed by the PCSO itself represented by Eduardo Araullo, for plunder and violation of RA 3019 -- for the respondents' acts of purportedly amassing millions of pesos by diverting funds sourced from the CIF during the latter years of the Arroyo administration.
Arroyo's lawyer Anacleto Diaz said the Arroyo camp finds the timing of the plunder complaint suspicious since Aquino is already a week away from delivering his third Sona on July 23.
But Lacierda insisted that the Ombudsman is an independent constitutional body and the Palace has no hand on the timing of the filing of charges against Arroyo.
"We'd like to remind you that the Executive branch has no control or influence over the Office of the Ombudsman and, time and again, there were certain instances or cases where the Ombudsman has dismissed a case against the former President or lowered the crime charge," he said.
He added the charge is not a deliberate attempt to demean or to further insult the former President.
Lacierda is also not aware whether the plunder case against Arroyo will be mentioned in the Sona of the President.
"We have been drafting the Sona address for several weeks back already. So we don't know if this is going to be included again," he said.
Also named respondents on the plunder case are former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte; former PCSO board chairperson Sergio Valencia; former PCSO board members Manuel Morato, Jose Taruc, Raymundo Roquero and Ma. Fatima Valdes; and former PCSO budget officer Benigno Aguas.
Malacañang also denied that the plunder and graft charges filed against former officials of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), including former chairman Efraim Genuino were related to Sona.
The Pagcor officials were charged for an allegedly overpriced coffee contract, which was divulged by the President in his Sona last year.
In a 25-page complaint affidavit, Pagcor filed plunder and graft charges against Genuino, former Pagcor president Rafael Francisco, former Pagcor senior vice president Rene Figueroa and Promolabels owner Carlota Cristi Manalo-Tan.
"I suppose it took some time for Pagcor to evaluate the evidence against the coffee supplier and some Pagcor officials. So, it so happened that it was filed only recently but, again, it was left to the legal team of Pagcor to evaluate the case. So, again, that is merely incidental. It has no relation whatsoever to the State of the Nation Address," said Lacierda.
Lacierda refused to give broad strokes of the President's speech but said the public will not be disappointed. (Jill Beltran/Sunnex)