• 3 ex-PCSO officials gain temporary freedom

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    THREE former officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) have now gained temporary freedom following Sandiganbayan’s approval of their petition for bail.

    Erstwhile PCSO president Sergio Valencia and board members Manuel “Manoling” Morato and Raymundo Roquero gained their provisional liberty when the Sandiganbayan First Division found that the evidence of the prosecution showed no indication of guilt.

    The Office of the Ombudsman accused them of conniving with former president Gloria Arroyo and former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte to divert the P365.997-million worth of cash from the PCSO operating budget to the intelligence fund.

    The money was allegedly transferred to themselves between January 2008 and June 2010 “in the guise of fictitious expenditures, for their personal gain and benefit.”

    The five incarcerated officials asked the court to let them post bail following their voluntary surrender.

    Immediately after promulgating the resolution on the petition, Valencia and Morato posted a half a million bail, while Roquero posted P700,000 because “he did not surrender at once” despite knowledge of the criminal suit.

    The ruling did not render any decision on Arroyo and PCSO budget and accounts manager
    Benigno Aguas, who are presently detained in the Veterans Memorial Medical Center and in the Philippine National Police Custodial Center, respectively.

    The Sandiganbayan ruled that the evidence against Valencia, Morato and Roquero “shows no great presumption of guilt.”

    The court said that board resolutions are not essential before the directors could release the confidential and intelligence fund to Uriarte.

    In fact, in 2008, the court noticed that 17 cash advances totaling P81.7 million were released to Uriarte without approval of the PCSO board.

    “This alone shows that the PCSO board need not approve or confirm releases of the Intel fund,” it said.

    The signed board approvals also were not one-to-one correspondence, as to time and amount of the intelligence fund, which made it uncertain if these resolutions refer to past cash advances to Uriarte or to future ones.

    Even if they signed the board resolutions, the court though said that they had no participation in the processing of the disbursement vouchers since they did not sign any of them.

    The court added that the three were not one with Uriarte in requesting the amount. It also appeared that they were not informed on the matter before Uriarte approached Arroyo.

    Even Ombudsman star witness Aleta Tolentino, incumbent PCSO board member, testified that there were no minute resolutions in any board meeting that showed that the board resolutions were taken up and approved.

    “There is, therefore, nothing to establish that these three directors knew of Uriarte’s requests or her intentions to raid the PCSO coffers, nor did they know that Arroyo was into this design,” the ruling added.

    It added that Valencia’s own request for a total of P13-million cash advance between 2008 and 2010 is “way below the threshold stated in the plunder law [of]P50 million.”

    “For accused Valencia, Morato, and Roquero, this court finds that the evidence presented against them at this point and stage of the proceedings, do not show evident proof of guilt. They can therefore be allowed to post bail,” the ruling read.

    Uriarte
    In the same resolution, the Sandiganbayan discussed that even if Uriarte was not a petitioner in the bail, her approval of the grant and release of the confidential fund showed catena of acts, which were “unlawful.”

    Among others, Uriarte did not specify the purposes of the request; the cash advances were not on a per project basis; no monthly liquidation report was issued every after advance; and she did not have any duplicate copy of the alleged liquidation vouchers.

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