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Ombudsman junks remaining plunder rap vs. Arroyo
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Ombudsman junks remaining plunder rap vs. Arroyo

December 2 ------ The Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the remaining plunder complaint filed against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and several Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) officials over their alleged misuse of P73-million confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) from 2004 to 2007. In a 10-page resolution dated February 13 but released to the media only on Sunday, the Office of the Ombudsman junked the complaint for plunder, malversation of public funds and violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act against Arroyo, PCSO officials Rosario Uriarte, Sergio Valencia, Benigno Aguas, Gloria Araullo, and Commission on Audit Assistant Commissioner Lourdes Dimapilis and Auditor Nilda Plaras.

The complaint alleged that Arroyo allowed the release of regular CIFs and granted Uriarte and Valencia's request for additional CIFs even without specific details and supporting documents. Arroyo, Aguas, Araullo, Plaras and Dimapilis allegedly conspired with Uriarte and illegally "enriched" themselves with a total amount of P57 million for 2004 to 2007. Likewise, they also allegedly conspired with Valencia to illegally malverse public funds in the amount of P15 million for the same period.

The complaint was filed around the same time the Supreme Court acquitted Arroyo of plunder over the alleged misuse of the PCSO intelligence funds from 2008 to 2010. But the Ombudsman said there was no probable cause to indict Arroyo and her co-respondents for the crimes charged against them. “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 Ombudsman resolution read.

"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," it added. The anti-graft court said the factual circumstances of the complaint was essentially similar to the case that the Supreme Court had dismissed.

The Ombudsman also pointed out that the Supreme Court already found the requests of Valencia and Uriarte from 2008 to 2010 to be "valid" and "legal" as they complied with the requirements of Letter of Instructions (LOI) No. 1282 in the disbursement of intelligence funds. It also ruled that there was no evidence submitted that CIFs were misappropriated or misused as they in fact showed that the funds were properly disbursed and duly liquidated.

“The 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," the resolution read. "Absent clear and convincing evidence to the contrary, therefore, respondents, as public officers, enjoy the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties,” it added.

Lawyer Laurence Arroyo, the former President's counsel, 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," he said. "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,'" he added.

Source: gmanetwork.com