Ombudsman won't disclose PCSO fund probe report

By Michael Punongbayan, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 11 2013 07:37 AM | Updated as of Feb 11 2013 03:37 PM

MANILA, Philippines - A report by ombudsman investigators clearing former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of plunder in connection with the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) intelligence funds is “irrelevant and immaterial to the issues in this case” and need not be made public, according to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Morales’ position – contained in a 24-page partial motion for reconsideration last week – was in response to a Jan.21 Sandiganbayan directive that she release the so-called Somido report which recommended that graft charges and not plunder be filed against Arroyo.

The Sandiganbayan order was prompted by a “motion for the production of document” filed by the Arroyo camp.

The report is named after Deputy Special Prosecutor Cornelio Somido, head of the panel which conducted a preliminary investigation into the P366-million plunder case against Arroyo and former officials of the PCSO and the Commission on Audit. With Somido in the panel were director Mary Susan Guillermo and lawyers Joaquin Salazar, Nellie Golez and Roque Damian Dator.

Morales dismissed the Somido report as a mere disapproved draft, and that its contents should be considered privilege communication “excluded from the scope of discovery” and “have no probative value.”

She also said the findings in the report were “personal view(s) and opinion(s) of the original panel of investigators.”

She later created another panel, which pressed for the filing of plunder charges against Arroyo and the others.

Morales also said releasing the Somido report might only confuse the courts and the public.

Arroyo’s counsel Anacleto Diaz, in an earlier interview, said it was important for the court to see the first resolution because it would show that within the Office of the Ombudsman, there were opposing findings on the case.

“If there are conflicting findings among investigators, all doubts should be made in favor of the accused,” he said.

The ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutor had initially asked for more time to comply with the Sandiganbayan order but later decided to seek a reconsideration.

“Accused GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) intends to present the Resolution of the Panel as evidence for her defense, among others. She received information, and so alleges, that the findings of the panel are materially different from the findings and conclusions of the ombudsman in her Review Joint Resolution in that unlike the latter, the panel found no sufficient evidence to support the crime of plunder under the present information,” Diaz said.

The plunder case against Arroyo and the others stemmed from alleged anomalous disbursement of PCSO intelligence funds from 2008 to 2010. The funds were believed to have been used by Arroyo to boost the chances of her candidates in the 2010 elections.

On Friday, PCSO director Ma. Aleta Tolentino testified that only Arroyo could have authorized the release of the funds. She said Arroyo approved the releases with her handwritten “OK” side by side with her signature on the upper margins of seven letters seeking disbursements.

Tolentino said then PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte prepared the letters.