MANILA, Philippines - Prosecutors and graft investigators allegedly did not find enough evidence to charge former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with plunder for the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.
The Philippine Star sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said yesterday investigators of the Office of the Ombudsman had recommended graft and technical malversation charges be filed against Arroyo before the Sandiganbayan.
However, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales allegedly rejected the findings and ordered a review.
The results of the review were contained in a Review Joint Resolution that became the basis for the filing of plunder against Arroyo and nine other former government officials from the PCSO and the Commission on Audit (COA) two weeks ago.
The sources said the original Joint Resolution should have been submitted to the Sandiganbayan, but for some reason, it was not made part of the records of the preliminary investigation.
The Review Joint Resolution allegedly did not mention the original recommendations of the investigating panel.
The sources said that normally, a copy of the original Joint Resolution is also submitted to the Sandiganbayan for reference.
The STAR tried to secure a copy of the original Joint Resolution, but was told that the Office of the Special Prosecutor does not have a copy.
Sources said it was well within the powers and prerogative of the Ombudsman to reject, review and modify the findings of graft investigators.
Arroyo, who has filed a motion for reconsideration of the Office of the Ombudsman Review Joint Resolution, is asking for the dismissal of the charges for lack of evidence.
Granting her motion for a suspension of proceedings pending the resolution of her appeal, the Sandiganbayan on Friday remanded the case to the Office of the Ombudsman and deferred issuance of a warrant of arrest.
The STAR tried to reach Assistant Ombudsman and spokesperson Asryman Rafanan for comment on the issue of how the graft and technical malversation charges were upgraded to plunder, but he did not issue a statement.
Meanwhile, at the Pasay City Regional Trial Court, Judge Jesus Mupas postponed yesterday the hearing of the electoral sabotage charges against Arroyo after the Commission of Elections (Comelec) failed to furnish the defense a copy of its motion for reconsideration on the grant of P1-million bail. – Michael Punongbayan, Perseus Echeminada