Ex-COA chief enters not guilty plea on plunder

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014


FORMER Commission on Audit (COA) chairman Reynaldo Villar entered a not guilty plea to the P366-million plunder case filed against him and several others, including Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

During his arraignment before the Sandiganbayan First Division, Villar maintained his innocence on the alleged conspiracy in defrauding the government of P365,997,915 through unlawful transfer of confidential/intelligence funds of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) from January 2008 to June 2010.

Villar, who has been fugitive from the law since July 2012 was arrested recently by members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in his residence in Merville Park, Parañaque City.

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Aside from Arroyo and Villar, other co-accused in the case were former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte, former PCSO chairpersons Sergio Valencia and Manuel Morato; and former directors Raymundo Roquero, Jose Taruc V, and Ma. Fatima A. S. Valdes; former budget and accounts manager Benigno Aguas; former Commission on Audit chairman Reynaldo Villar and former COA-Intelligence Fund Unit head Nilda Plaras.

The Ombudsman said that these people have allegedly diverted funds from the PCSO operating budget to its confidential/intelligence fund during Arroyo's presidency.

It also noted the respondents "form a pattern, not only of misuse and raid of PCSO's CIF (confidential/intelligence funds) from 2008-2010, but also of illegal conveyance or disposition of cash advances disbursed therefrom, all the while taking advantage of their respective official functions."

To date, Uriarte and Valdes remain at large while Taruc who voluntarily surrendered last March has refused to turn state witness against the former president and other co-accused in the case.

Taruc, Valencia, Morato, and Roquero were already out on bail while Arroyo is currently under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City.

Plaras has not been arrested after she questioned before the Supreme Court (SC) the indictment or the basis of her inclusion in the plunder charge.

The plunder complaint was filed before the Ombudsman by Jaime Regalario of Kilusang Makabang Ekonomiya, former Akbayan Party-list Representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and former Bureau of Customs deputy commissioner fort intelligence Danilo Lim last July 26, 2011.

Plunder, a capital offense, is punishable by life imprisonment hence non-bailable and it likewise entails forfeiture of defendants' assets it they are found guilty of the crime. (Sunnex)

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