• Ex-PCSO official pleads not guilty to plunder rap

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    Ma. Fatima Valdes, a former official of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, has pleaded not guilty to the plunder charge filed against her before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan in connection with alleged misuse of the PCSO’s confidential and intelligence funds from 2008 to 2010.

    Valdes, who was among those charged along with former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2012, had been at large but resurfaced last October 11 and was arraigned on Thursday before the Sandiganbayan’s First Division.

    Following her return, her arraignment was twice deferred after she was admitted to the intensive care unit of a hospital in Makati City (Metro Manila).

    In asking the court to let her post bail for her provisional liberty, the defense cited her age and medical condition.

    It also asked the court’s permission to let her adopt the proceedings conducted for bail petitions filed by several former respondents.

    Plunder, being an offense punishable by life imprisonment, is not bailable as a matter of right but bailable at the court’s discretion when evidence is not strong.

    The defense has also filed an urgent motion asking the court to allow Valdes’ detention at the Makati Medical Center (MMC) pending resolution of her bail petition, and considering her age and medical condition.

    Based on the urgent motion, Valdes’ son, who accompanied her, asked upon arrival at the airport if it would be possible for her to be brought to the hospital.

    It said that even before the flight landed, she “has already been complaining to her son that she was not feeling well.”

    The National Bureau of Investigations (NBI) personnel “could not decide” whether Valdes should be brought to the hospital, so they brought her to the bureau’s office on Taft Avenue in Manila, and her family brought her cardiologist there instead.

    After examination, the doctor and later the NBI’s medico-legal officer recommended that Valdes be brought to the hospital and she was then brought to the MMC where she “is still under the custody of the NBI.”
    “Operatives of the NBI are with her in the hospital 24/7,” the defense said in the urgent motion.

    In asking the court to allow Valdes’ detention at the hospital, it said her continued stay there “would allow her doctors to continuously monitor her medical condition and will allow such doctors to immediately perform the appropriate medical treatment, as may be necessary. This would not be possible if [she]will be aplaced in a normal detention facility.”

    The possibility of her escape “is likewise non-existent since she is currently under the custody of the NBI and would be contrary to the essence and purpose of her voluntary surrender.”

    In September 2015, the court acquitted the following on demurrer: former PCSO directors Manuel Morato, Raymundo Roquero and Jose Taruc 5th as well as former Commission on Audit chairman Reynaldo Villar.
    But it struck down Arroyo’s move to dismiss the plunder case on demurrer.

    The court also denied the demurrers to evidence filed by Benigno Aguas, a former PCSO budget and accounts manager, and former PCSO Chairman Sergio Valencia.

    Last July, the Supreme Court dismissed the plunder case filed against Arroyo for lack of evidence.
    It also granted Aguas’ demurrer.

    Former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte remains at large.

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