Plunder charges filed vs Arroyo for PCSO scam


MANILA — Stealing from the Filipino people is bad enough, but stealing from the poorest of the poor is the worst.

This was the statement of Bayan Muna Representatives Neri Colmenares and Teddy Casino explaining why the filed plunder charges against former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office Manager Rosario Uriarte last July 12.

For the last two weeks, media has been reporting irregularities in the PCSO wherein the former president was charged of abusing her powers to manipulate funds in the said agency. It has also been reported that Uriarte’s appointment to the post violated several civil service laws including the very charter of the PCSO itself.

Uriarte has admitted during the July 7 senate investigations that she was close to Arroyo and that she had been working with her in various capacities since the latter was an undersecretary in the Department of Trade and Industry. This, critics said, was the foundation of Arroyo’s trust for Ariarte and why Arroyo appointed her as PCSO general manager, vice-chairman, and eventually lead implementor of its intelligence fund.

Immediately after, Bayan Muna filed plunder charges against the two officials at the Office of the Ombudsman.

“The complaint was filed on the basis of documents in our possession such as the PCSO Letter Memorandum requesting for intelligence funds with the signed approval of then Pres. Arroyo in the marginal portion, the COA reports, and the transcripts of the Senate hearing where Ms. Uriarte admitted to technical malversation – at the very least -that the intelligence funds taken from operations funds were used for operational expenses like blood money and relief operations,” Colmenares said.

Earlier in May this year, Colmenares delivered a privileged speech on the various irregularities and anomalies that took place in the PCSO during the RRoyo administration. These include the PCSO’s brokering a contract with the Philippine Gaming and Management Corporation (PGMC) on the rent of overpriced machines; and a 50-year contract on thermal paper protection. Both contracts, Colmenares said, were highly disadvantageous to the government.

The activist lawmaker also exposed how the PCSO utilized a bloated media fund wherein it received a 40 percent commission from various media advertisers; and how the said fund was eventually transferred to the intelligence fund. Both acts were approved only through the say so of then president Arroyo and without passing through the PCSO board.

Illegal reallignment and use of funds

Uriarte had requested for a total of P325 million (US$ 755,814) for her administration as intelligence/confidential fund including a realignment of at least P150 million (US$348,837)of the media fund PCSO’s 2010 to the intelligence fund. It was discovered that she issued at least eight official memoranda addressed to Arroyo on the matter, which Arroyo approved.

In one of the memoranda dated January 4, 2010, Uriarte suggested to Arroyo that “the General Manager’s office be given at most 20 percent of the Public Relations Fund or a minim of P150 million (US$ 348,837) to be used as intelligence/confidential fund.”

In the plunder charges against Arroyo and Uriarte, Colmenares and Casino said that both public officials violated Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code. The said article penalizes the illegal use of public funds: Any public officer who shall apply any public fund or property under his administration to any public use other than that for which such fund or property were appropriated by law or ordinance shall suffer the penalty of prision correccional in its minimum period or a fine ranging from one-half to the total value of the sum misapplied, if by reason of such misapplication, any damage or embarrassment shall have resulted to the public service.

In the recent senate investigations, she admitted under oath that she informed arroyo that the realliagned funds were not to be used for intelligence task but to bank roll small town lottery (STL) all over the country; for calamity and relief measures; and as “blood money” for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) imprisoned abroad.

“Despite full knowledge that the funds were not going to be used for their originally intended purpose, Arroyo still approved the transfer and the utilization of the funds. Uriarte also said that she discussed the matter extensively with Arroyo personally. These two officials blatantly conspired to use the intelligence fund for other purposes than intelligence work. Uriarte could not have succeeded in realligning the funds and using them for illegal and unapproved purposes without Arroyo backing and supporting her actions,” said the two lawmakers.

The Bayan Muna lawmakers also said that Arroyo and Uriarte should also be charged under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code on malversation. The said article states that Any public officer who, by reason of the duties of his office, is accountable for public funds or property, shall appropriate the same or shall take or misappropriate or shall consent, through abandonment or negligence, shall permit any other person to take such public funds, or property, wholly or partially, or shall otherwise be guilty of the misappropriation or malversation of such funds or property.

It was also stated that a public officer failing to be forthcoming on any public funds or property should be found guilty and that the neglect should be considered evidence that he has put such missing funds or property to personal use.

“These two officials failed to present any accounting of the said founds. Uriarte claimed during the senate investigations that her ‘one and only copy’ of her report was with Arroyo. The P150 million (US$348,837) fund was disbursed months before the May 2010 polls and most likely the money was used in the elections. This is malversation and approporiation for Arroyo’s gain and benefit. As for Uriarte, it was revealed that she cleaned out almost all of the intelligence funds for the year six months into 2010 and even withdrew P2.5 million (US$46,629) and another P10 million (US$23,256) on June 18, 2010, a mere 12 days before her term ended.What else could this but fund malversation for her own personal benefit?”

“I doubt if they can liquidate properly how the P325 million in (US$ 755,814)intelligence funds were spent. In fact, during the hearing, Ms. Uriarte said that her only copy of the report on the P150 million (US$348,837) intelligence fund for 2010 could not be presented in the Senate because it is with is with former Pres. Arroyo. General allegations, such as bomb threats, terrorism and destabilization cannot be the liquidation contemplated by law. Under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code a public official is deemed to have malversed public funds if he or she could not account for it upon demand,” Colmenares said.

Money stolen from the poor and helpless

Colmenares and Casino also want the two officials charged under Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. They said that Arroyo and Uriarte violated Section 3 (e) of the said law: Causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.

The provision applies to officers and employees of offices or government corporations charged with the grant of licenses or permits or other concessions.

As for the changes of plunder, the two lawmakers said tht Arroyo and Uriarte’s crimes are succinctly described in Section 2 of RA 7080 or the Anti-Plunder Law: “By receiving, directly or indirectly, any commission, gift, share, percentage, kickbacks or any/or entity in connection with any government contract or project or by reason of the office or position of the public officer concerned;” and ” By the illegal or fraudulent conveyance or disposition of assets belonging to the National government or any of its subdivisions, agencies or instrumentalities or government-owned or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries.”

“What has been stolen in the PCSO is money for the poor. Money that should have been used to cure those who could not afford to get sick, feed those who could not buy food, build homes for the homeless, and give help to the helpless. These two officials are guilty of graft, malversation and plunder involving at least P325 million (US$ 755,814) in PCSO funds that should have went to the poor . Part of these funds may have been used for political largesse, part to retain the loyalty of public officers to the President. Some were most likely used for partisan electoral purposes, and some were amassed as ill-gotten wealth. These disbursements came from illegally diverted and malversed intelligence funds,” they said.

The lawmakers expressed certainty that there are more irregularities at the PCSO. beyond what they’re charging Arroyo and Uriate. They said that the Office of the Ombudsman should move quickly for the sequestration of all documents including liquidation reports the PCSO submitted to the Commission on Audit (CoA). They’re also calling for a lifestyle check against the two officials.

High Tolerance for Graft

Finally, the progressive solons countered allegations by former justice and now Iloilo Rep. Raul Gonzalez and other members of Arroyo bloc in congress that the complaint is baseless.

“If our colleagues find nothing suspicious about realigning operations funds to intelligence funds only to spend it on operations funds, then there is a problem in their legal analytical skills. If they find nothing suspicious about the fact that a P150 million (US$348,837) project has a “one and only copy” report and the said copy was submitted, not to the PCSO board, but to the former President, then maybe their tolerance level for graft cases is fairly high,” Colmenares said.

For his part, ACT Teachers Party-List Representative Antonio L. Tinio said that the PCSO’s so-called “intelligence fund” could have helped the shortages of critical school inputs such as classrooms.

“This huge amount could have built 474 more classrooms,” he said. He said that the government could have prevented “negative scenarios” during the last school opening such as what happened in Payatas Elementary School where pupils reportedly cannot focus on their lessons because of the distractions caused by congested classrooms.

“The PCSO fund is intended to provide for the poor Filipinos who are in dire need of health and other social services. Unfortunately, it was clearly used by the Arroyo administration as its own pork barrel to distribute material support to its political allies,” he said. (

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