Ombud junks plunder raps vs Arroyo-A A +A
Thursday, October 25, 2012
MANILA -- The Office of the Ombudsman dismissed for lack of evidence the technical malversation case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and 11 others in connection with the alleged misuse of P530 million funds intended for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
The dismissal order was contained in a 47-page memorandum and an 11-page supplemental memorandum approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales dated June 14, 2012 and Oct. 12, 2012, respectively.
Aside from Arroyo, the Ombudsman also ordered the dismissal of the case against former president and chief executive officer of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation Francisco Duque III; Former Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo; and former Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) Chairman of the Board of Trustees Patricia Sto. Tomas, and former Owwa Board of Trustees Members Virgilio Angelo; Manuel Imson, Rosalinda Baldoz, Mina Figueroa, Caroline Rogge, Victorino Balais, Gregorio Oca and Virginia Pasalo.
Duque is the current chairman of the Civil Service Commission, Romulo was the former Foreign secretary and Baldoz is the incumbent Labor secretary.
The Ombudsman reversed the findings of the Department of Justice, citing lack of evidence against the 12 respondents.
It said the funds could not have been used for the re-election of Arroyo because it was actually released in 2005 or a year after the May 2004 presidential elections.
"The truth that the Owwa Medicare funds were released only in 2005 or after the election in 2004, and only subsequent to the issuance by the Owwa Board of Resolution effecting the transfer of the funds and with the effectivity of the IRR (implementing rules and regulations) of EO 182 as amended, only prove that respondents Duque, Macapagal-Arroyo and the Owwa Board never intended that the Owwa Medical funds be diverted for purposes other than to benefit the Filipino Overseas Contract Workers," the 47-page memorandum said.
The Ombudsman also noted the reports of the Commission on Audit, dated Feb. 28, 2006 and March 15, 2007, which confirmed that the P530 million Owwa funds were transferred to the PHIC and used for the benefit of the OFWs.
Likewise, the Ombudsman also cleared Arroyo for approving the release of US$293,500 Owwa funds.
The Ombudsman said it was legal for Arroyo to allow such disbursement since it was part of the US$ 1-million contingency fund for OFWs caught in conflict areas in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Arroyo turned to the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday and asked the justices to stop the Sandiganbayan from further hearing her plunder case in connection with the alleged misuse of funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
In an 81-page petition for certiorari and prohibition, Arroyo, through her counsel Anacleto Diaz, also asked the SC to reverse the finding of probable cause by the Office of the Ombudsman and order the dismissal of the plunder case against her.
Arroyo is set for arraignment on Monday, Oct. 29, before the Sandiganbayan First Division in connection with the P366-million plunder case for allegedly funneling money from the PCSO's confidential fund for over three years.
Along with her request for a temporary restraining order (TRO), Arroyo also asked the court to junk the resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan dated October 3, 2012, which was the basis for the issuance of the arrest warrant weeks ago.
Arroyo's detention at the Veteran's Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City has also been asked to be ceased in deference to her stature as former President and for humanitarian reasons.
The Pampanga lawmaker, who is seeking a fresh term next year, was earlier found suffering from coronary ischemia, which may lead to heart attack if left unchecked.
In her petition, Arroyo also said there is no evidence yet that would tag her in a "grand conspiracy" to touch on the PCSO intelligence funds.
The petition added that former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita was not included in the 10-man charge sheet even if he approved the request of then PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte for higher CIF (confidential/intelligence funds).
"Since petitioner GMA (Arroyo) is admittedly not a payee of the checks issued for the CIF and there is no evidence at all showing that she received a single centavo of the encashed checks issued to and/or received by the payees thereof, there is clearly no basis in holding that petitioner GMA amassed, accumulated and acquired alleged ill-gotten wealth," the petition read.
The funds were reportedly intended for stamping out lotto and sweepstakes scams victimizing innocent people of winning the jackpot and selling tampered tickets as winning tickets, unauthorized expenditures of endowment fund for charity patients and organizations and illegal gambling games (jueteng) under the guise of small town lottery.
"Given the confidential nature of the activities to be undertaken on the additional CIF requested, the Ombudsman should not have considered petitioner GMA's approvals thereof tainted with criminal intent," the petition stated.
Eleven of the 14 magistrates are Arroyo appointees, but Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has since established himself as a critic of the former leader's policies on charter change, among others.
Arroyo is set to be arraigned in the P366-million case on October 29 before the anti-graft court's first division. (PNA/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)