FORMER President Benigno Aquino 3rd grumbled at the release of his political nemesis and predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Thursday, releasing a four-page statement wondering why no one was held to account for the alleged misuse of state lottery funds.
“I have several questions on my mind,” Aquino said as he explained that he had to speak up because of media requests for comment.
He referred to Arroyo, now a representative of Pampanga, as “congresswoman” instead of “former President.”
“By ordering the release and exoneration of Mrs. Arroyo, what is the Supreme Court saying: That nothing anomalous transpired? That no crime happened? That no one should be held to account? That the funds were used properly?” Aquino asked.
He pointed out that Arroyo used Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds for national security and other purposes not allowed by the agency’s charter.
“Nowhere does it state that the funds of the agency charged to manage sweepstakes and provide charity can be reallocated for actions related to ‘Bomb threat, kidnapping, destabilization and terrorism’ or for ‘Bilateral and security relation,’” he said.
Aquino recalled that the PCSO, at the start of his term in 2010, was in debt and needed P71.39 million to cover 1,920 hospital cases, and many hospitals had stopped accepting PCSO promissory notes and guarantee letters that poor patients had relied upon to finance their medical bills.
He also accused Arroyo of supporting, tolerating, and encouraging “poor managerial performance” by allowing supposedly questionable fund requests made by PCSO General Manager Rosario Uriarte.
Arroyo was arrested in 2011 on electoral fraud charges in connection with the 2007 elections but was allowed bail.
She was rearrested in 2012 over the PCSO plunder case.
The Sandiganbayan on Thursday ordered Arroyo’s release in deference to the Supreme Court ruling.
The camp of the former President has said Arroyo’s acquittal proved that Aquino had engaged in political persecution.
Senate President Franklin Drilon, an Aquino ally, on Thursday called on the Ombudsman to find Uriarte and place her under the Witness Protection Program to reopen the plunder case.
Uriarte, Drilon said, had testified before the Senate that Arroyo personally approved the release of PCSO funds.
While Uriarte was included in the case filed by the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan, she was never found after her Senate appearance.
“The Ombudsman should initiate looking for her. She is the missing link,” Drilon said. “If she is in the United States or in a country with which we have an extradition treaty then the Interpol should work hard to bring her back here.”
Also missing is former PCSO director Fatima Valdes.
Uriarte and Valdes were the only PCSO officials who had avoided being investigated, while others were issued arrest warrants and subsequently allowed to post bail.
These were former PCSO general manager Sergio Valencia; former board members Manuel Morato, Jose Taruc and Raymundo Roquero; former Commission on Audit chairman Reynaldo Villar; and auditor Nilda Plaras.
Arroyo and PCSO budget and accounts manager Benigno Aguas were not allowed by the Sandiganbayan to post bail.
Drilon said: “I am saddened and disappointed, but I respect the decision of the Supreme Court. I assume they used their knowledge of the law.”