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Ombudsman junks plunder raps vs GMA


The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed the plunder complaint filed against former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) and some officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) in connection with the alleged misuse of the P73.6-million Confidential and Intelligence Fund (CIF).

Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer 3 Lucielo Ramirez Jr., in a resolution dated Feb. 13, 2019, but was released only on Sunday, said there was “no probable cause to indict respondents for the crimes charged.” The charges were plunder, malversation of public funds, and violation of Section 3(e) of the Republic Act 3019 or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practice Act.”

Charged along with Arroyo were PCSO officers — former vice chairman and general manager Rosario Uriarte, former chairman Sergio Valencia, Budget and Accounting Department Manager Benigno Aguas, and Treasury Department Manager Gloria Araullo — and Commission on Audit former assistant commissioner Lourdes Dimapilis and former auditor Nilda Plaras.

The complaint filed by the Field Investigation 2 accused Uriarte, Valencia and other PCSO officials of diverting funds and using the CIF budget “without observing effective control measures.”

It alleged that Arroyo allowed the “release of the regular CIFs, and granted Uriarte and Valencia’s requests for additional CIFs despite the lack of specific details and supporting documents on the use of the advances.”

The complaint also accused Arroyo, Aguas, Araullo, Plaras and Dimapilis of taking advantage of their respective positions to conspire with Uriarte, and “illegally enriched themselves” with a total amount of P57,875,000 in CIF funds from 2004 to 2007. They were also alleged to have conspired with Valencia to malverse P15.7 million during the same period.

The Ombudsman ruled that “the question involving the use of the PCSO’s CIF is not novel.”

“In a similar case involving the use of the PCSO’s CIF for [calendar years] 2008 to 2010, the Supreme Court dismissed the case against Arroyo and Aguas. The high court ruled that (1) the Prosecution did not prove the existence to conspiracy among Arroyo, Aguas and Uriarte; (2) no proof of amassing or accumulating, or acquiring ill-gotten wealth of at least P50 million was adduced against Arroyo and Aguas, and finally (3) the prosecution failed to prove the predicate act of raiding the public coffers,” the resolution read.

The Ombudsman added that the high court affirmed the validity of the requests of Uriarte and Valencia and found them compliant with Letter of Instruction 1282. It ruled that the absence of “clear and convincing evidence” presumed the regularity of the accused public officials’ performance of their official duties.

Arroyo’s counsel, Laurence Arroyo, welcomed the dismissal of the complaint.

“We commend the Office of the Ombudsman for the dismissal of this case. It takes as much moral courage and intellectual honesty to dismiss a case as it does to file and prosecute one. What has been said of a public prosecutor can be said of the Ombudsman: Its interest in a criminal prosecution is not that it shall win a case but that justice shall be done’,” Arroyo said.

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Today’s Front Page February 28, 2020

Today’s Front Page February 28, 2020