“Kung sino ang malapit sa kalan ang siyang nauulingan.”
(Whoever is near the pan gets the pan’s black coating) — Filipino proverb
CHICAGO (jGLi) — With the attention of the Filipino people riveted on the impeachment of Philippine Chief Justice Renato Corona, I am going to digress for now from it by discussing a graft case that was lost from the radar of the fickle-minded Filipinos.
The Blue Ribbon committee investigation conducted by the Philippine Senate last year did not really attract my attention until someone (a Chicago community activist, MJ Singson) forwarded me the 160-page result of the investigation.
I thought it was just one of the run-of-the-mill investigations conducted by the Philippine Senate that should be treated as a spam.
But in reading the report chaired by Sen. Teopisto “TG” Guingona, III, I noticed how Rosario Uriarte, former vice chair and general manager of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, painted herself as stupid and moronic in stealing millions of pesos from the Filipino taxpayers and how the gullible former President and now detained Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) approved such fund requisitions in brazen fashions.
If the court (Sandiganbayan) will convict GMA and Uriarte of unbailable plunder that calls for maximum penalty of a life in prison, it will not be surprising. They are also facing technical malversation charges before the Ombudsman.
If GMA denies ever pocketing those millions, she would still be liable under the principle of command responsibility for losing those millions under her watch.
Uriarte and GMA are believed to have pocketed 244-million pesos (US$5.8-million) from PCSO.
If GMA feels that she is being “persecuted” by the Aquino administration, she should think again. If GMA were smart, she should have fired and sent Uriarte to jail after a few times that Uriarte presented her carbon copy memoranda, seeking authorizations to withdraw money from the PCSO.
GMA COULD NOT DENY “SMOKING GUNS”
But by affixing her signatures to the requisitions, GMA just provided the “smoking guns” to the conspiracy.
Even granting that Uriarte faked GMA’s signatures on those memoranda, if GMA were on top of the situation, she should be able to stop cold the unwarranted raids of the PCSO treasury by getting feedback or intelligence from the people she trusted in the PCSO.
If GMA could not even put a trusted person in such graft-ridden agency as the PCSO that was entirely her undoing.
GMA should not have waited three years for Uriarte to bleed the PCSO dry with 325-million pesos (US$7.7-million).
After learning some ideas from PCSO predecessor in 2000 under the term of my friend, former President Joseph Estrada, Uriarte perfected the art of securing monies from the PCSO and never got tired doing so.
The template letter from the Feb. 21, 2000 PCSO Chair Rosario Lopez first secured 5-million pesos (US$11,94.00) citing the need for “confidential/intelligence funds” (CIF’s) to conduct “current investigation of medicines with Botika ng Masa labels of the PCSO” when they ended up for sale in the commercial market. “Since investigation on the matter had to be done in utmost secrecy lest the image and credibility of the project and the participating government hospitals be put in question by the media,” there was a need for the multi-million peso funding.
Lopez also cited “instances where PCSO ambulances were used for commercial purposes, and even as ‘getaway vehicle and in transporting prohibited drugs;’” and syndicates, pretending to be from PCSO and talking to some unwitting victims into depositing certain amounts to a bank account after being assured that they won the lottery.
“For essentially the same purposes,” the Senate report said, “it is, however, mind-numbingly shocking that for the years 2008 to 2010, the pot for PCSO’s CIF contained 325-million pesos (US$7.7-Million).”
URIARTE HAD NOTHING TO SHOW FOR 325-M PESOS
What was galling was that after withdrawing these millions, Uriarte could not even show any accomplishment for the expenses. Not even a liquidation receipt, nor a court case that would indicate that PCSO broke up or caught the syndicates involving “Botika ng Masa,” PCSO ambulance drug traffickers, and PCSO’s alleged bank scammers.
Uriarte might have released the 17-million pesos (US$404,000.00) as “blood money” for an OFW (Overseas Filipino Worker). But such release was “contrary to the purposes for which these funds were requested and approved.”
The PCSO even outspent Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines “3.5 times larger” in confidential and intelligence funds although ISAFP’s main task was to conduct intelligence work while PCSO’s principal mandate was to spend for charitable causes. In 2010, PCSO spent 160-million (US$3.8-M) in CIF’s while ISAFP budget was 63-million pesos (US$1.5-M) for intelligence.
But in 2009, Uriarte’s idiotic letters requested 70-million pesos (US$1.6-M) and 37-million pesos (US$880,000) for “bomb threat, kidnapping, terrorism and destabilization” and “bilateral and security relation.” But Uriarte could not even explain to the Senators what the payments were for.
Uriarte used the same excuses when she requested during the 2010 election year 47-million pesos (US$1.1-million) and 90-million pesos (US$2.1-million).
Checks to these “Special Funds” released “By Special Authority of the President” were made out in the name of Uriarte as “Special Disbursing Officer,” not the treasurer of PCSO.
Aside from intelligence funds, the Senate also found PCSO liable for excessive public relations/advertising spending (7.3-billion pesos or US$173-million from 2001 to 2010) as a case was filed before the Ombudsman against PCSO’s PR manager Manuel C. Garcia, for extorting 40% commissions from ad solicitors and Garcia could have amassed 1.5-billion (US$35-million); for leasing equipment for US$148-million, instead of buying the equipment for US$25-million; questionable STL (small town lottery) remittances, ambulance donations and co-mingling of funds; questionable P42-B (US$1-B) investment of PCSO and TMA’s (an Australian company) P4.4-B (US$104-M) Contractual Joint Venture Agreement that will give PCSO ROI (return-of-investment) of 20% while TMA gets 80% in 50 years rubber-stamped by Uriarte, PCSO Directors Jose Taruc V, Ma. Fatima A.S. Valdes, Raymundo Roquero and Manuel Morato; P6.940-M (US$165,238.00) donations of vehicles to members of the Catholic Church (in violation of separation of church and state); possible conflicts of interests in relation to the properties of former PCSO chair and concurrent board member, Manuel Morato after receiving 70-million pesos (US$1.6-million) as majority stock holder of TF ventures; and possible election offenses committed by Manuel Morato for PCSO’s sponsorship of P27-M (US$653, 260.00) “Dial M” TV program. (firstname.lastname@example.org)