By Ellson Quismorio
Former president and House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s so-called “pahabol” or belatedly filed plunder charge in connection with her alleged misuse of the Confidential and Intelligence Fund (CIF) of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) has been junked by the Office of the Ombudsman for lack of evidence.
In a 10-page Resolution penned by Lucielo Ramirez Jr., Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer III and approved by Ombudsman Samuel Martires dated February 13, 2019 but received only recently, the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the complaint for Plunder, Malversation of Public Funds and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act against Arroyo and her co-respondents from PCSO over the alleged misuse of CIF worth P73 million from 2004 to 2007 when she was President.
The complaint was the case belatedly filed in 2016 by the Field Investigation Office (FIO) under then-Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales at around the same time the Supreme Court (SC) acquitted the former Chief Executive of the plunder charge involving the CIF for the period 2008 to 2010.
The Ombudsman said following the SC ruling that dismissed a similar plunder complaint against Arroyo, there was no evidence that she and her co-respondents, Rosario Uriarte, former PCSO General Manager; Sergio Valencia, former PCSO Chairman; Benigno Aguas, former PCSO Manager; Gloria Araullo, PCSO Releasing Officer; Lorna Dimapilis, former Commission on Audit (COA) Assistant Commissioner; and Nilda Plaras, former COA Auditor, pocketed or misappropriated the P73.617 million CIF disbursed upon the request of Uriarte and Valencia.
“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 CYs 2008 to 2010, the Supreme Court dismissed the case against Arroyo and Aguas. The High Court ruled, among other things, 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 Ombudsman ruled.
It further stated that the SC had already found the requests of Uriarte and Valencia for the period 2008 to 2010 valid and legal as they complied with all the requirements of Letter of Instructions (LOI) No. 1282 in the disbursement of intelligence funds. In the subsequent complaint filed covering the years 2004 to 2007, the Ombudsman said Uriarte and Valencia’s requests had all the requirements under the said LOI.
The Ombudsman also reckoned there was no evidence submitted that would show the CIFs were misappropriated or misused since the funds were properly disbursed and duly liquidated.
“(T)he records consisting of Disbursement Vouchers, Liquidation Certifications, and Liquidation Reports are insufficient to establish that the CIFs were diverted or otherwise misappropriated by Uriarte and Valencia. The Credit Advices were subsequently issued by Dimapilis acknowledges Uriarte and Valencia’s liquidation of the CIFs, thus clothing their actions with regularity…..Absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, therefore, respondents, as public officers, enjoy the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties,” the Ombudsman declared.
Laurence Arroyo, counsel of the former President, welcomed the dismissal of the “pahabol” complaint as it was filed during the acquittal of the former President.
“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’,” the lawyer said.
Arroyo, 72, said she would retire from politics after her third and final term as Pampanga 2nd district representative, which ended last June.
Her favorite answer when asked about what she would do following her political career is, “I’ll write my memoirs.” (Ellson A. Quismorio)