COA officer clears Arroyo in PCSO fund scam

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Thursday, May 8, 2014

A PROSECUTION witness on Thursday practically cleared former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of wrongdoing in the alleged misuse of P366-million in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) confidential and intelligence fund (CIF).

Commission on Audit (COA) Intelligence and Confidential Fund Audit Unit chief Flerida Africa Jimenez said during her testimony before the Sandiganbayan First Division that Arroyo is not a recipient of the fund and that "she is not the accountable officer for it."

Jimenez said that based on records of the COA's Confidential Fund Audit Unit (ICFAU), Arroyo does not appear to be the recipient of the CIF released to the PCSO from 2008 to 2010 and that she is not the accountable public officer on the said account.

The ICFAU is the office that audits specifically all the CIFs of all government agencies.

"No, sir," Jimenez responded when Laurence Arroyo, counsel of the former President, asked her if Arroyo had received the amount.

The COA officer also made a categorical negative answer when asked "if she [Arroyo] was the accountable officer" of the fund.

Jimenez said that it was former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte, being the special disbursing officer, was the person accountable for it.

Arroyo's lawyer expressed delight over the testimony of Jimenez.

"I think the trial went well for the defense today. No less than the prosecution's own witness, Jimenez admitted that President Arroyo was not the recipient of the intelligence funds and that President Arroyo is not accountable for such funds. Her testimony speaks for itself," Arroyo's lawyer said.

Arroyo, Uriarte, former PCSO officials, Chairman Sergio Valencia, Directors Manuel Morato, Raymundo Roquero, Fatima Valdes, Jose Taruc, Villar and former ICFAU head Nilda Plaras were charged with plunder for their allegedly conspiring in the misuse of CIF from 2008 to the first part of 2010.

Valencia, Morato, Roquero and Taruc were granted bail while Valdes remains at large.

Villar, who was arrested by authorities recently, is awaiting resolution of his bail petition, while Plaras was able to secure an injunction from the Supreme Court in relation to her case.

Plaras at present continues to work at the COA as a director.

Only Arroyo and Aguas are under detention after their bail petitions were denied. The same is subject to a motion for reconsideration.

Jimenez said in her earlier testimony that credit advices were issued by Plaras on the P366-million CIF, which means that they have been cleared and liquidated by the audit body.

"When a credit advice is issued, it is presumed that the liquidation reports are proper, complete and in order," Jimenez had earlier told the anti-graft court, adding that all credit advice are issued by the ICAU head because the power of such official is with the authority of the COA chairman.

She said the COA itself has not questioned the credit notices issued with respect to such fund by reopening the same or filing a case before the Supreme Court as provided by law.

Jimenez also practically cleared Villar of liability on the issuance of credit advices by Plaras, saying that the latter was within her authority to issue for and in behalf of the COA chairperson in accordance with the office order creating the ICFAU. She added the COA Chairperson need not see the details of the report because the ICFAU head has the authority to issue the advices on his own.

"The same procedure is still practiced under the present leadership of the COA," Jimenez said.

She added that her team disallowed the CIFs of the current PCSO Board as she has yet to issue any credit advice on the CIF issued to them.

"We found that their submissions lacked certain requirements and we asked them to rectify them," Jimenez said.

The prosecution also disclosed that unlike their earlier pronouncement that they will present 6 to 10 more witnesses, they will rest their case next week.

Last week the Sandiganbayan reprimanded members of the prosecution team as they could not present any witness despite an earlier order for them to do so.

During the continuation of the trial on the merits, Justice Efren Dela Cruz, presiding Justice of the First division, expressed his displeasure after Special Prosecutor Hazel Militante told the graft court that they were not presenting any witness upon the instruction of the Ombudsman.

This prompted the graft court to warn the prosecution that if they again fail to present a witness in the next hearing, the same may be a ground for the granting of the bail petitions of the Arroyo and Aguas. (Sunnex)

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