MANILA, Philippines – Former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) board member Manuel Morato on Friday scored the Sandiganbayan's undue haste in issuing an arrest warrant for him and 9 others over a plunder case.
Morato said he is now preparing his answers to the plunder charge involving the alleged misuse of PCSO confidential/intelligence funds under the Arroyo administration.
Morato, who has yet to surface after the Sandiganbayan issued an arrest order for him and other former government officials, noted that he only received a copy of the charges yesterday.
"We hope to file today, and hindi ako sa nagtatago. I have to be given a chance to answer," Morato told radio dzmM in a phone interview.
"I never intended to do that (leave the country). Iyung ibang kasamahan ko they left. I just want to be given [a chance], mapagbigyan lang ako ng judicial process… Nabigla ako doon sa ginawa nila," he added.
Morato refused to answer if he is currently admitted to a hospital but said he is "under doctor's care."
Morato's co-accused, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is currently a "patient-detainee" at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center where she was served the arrest order. This, after the former president camp's motion to defer the arrest order was denied by the Sandiganbayan.
Apart from Morato, the other respondents who have yet to surface are former PCSO vice chairman and general manager Rosario Uriarte, members of the PCSO board of directors Jose Taruc V, Raymundo Roquero, and Ma. Fatima Valdes, former Commission on Audit chairman Reynaldo Villar, and former head of COA's intelligence/confidential fund audit unit Nilda Plaras.
No hand in alleged funds misuse
The Office of the Ombudsman noted the respondents' acts "form a pattern, not only of misuse and raid of PCSO’s CIF from 2008-2010, but also of illegal conveyance or disposition of cash advances disbursed therefrom, all the while taking advantage of their respective official functions."
The aggregate amount of P365,997,915 representing cash advances were supposedly disbursed from PCSO’s CIF in the names of Uriarte (P352,681,646) and Valencia (P13,316,269) from January 2008 to June 2010.
The Ombudsman said the increase in allocation for the CIF was perplexing.
Morato maintained his innocence in the charges, saying he was merely performing his ministerial functions in approving the release of the CIF funds.
"Ministerial lang ang aking trabaho doon. As one of the directors, may pirma na, may approval na ang presidente, si presidente Gloria. Anong gagawin ko? I disapprove ko? Eh I am a political appointee, nakapirma na lahat ng kasama ko."
Two of Arroyo's co-accused, former PCSO chairman Sergio Valencia and former PCSO Budget and Accounts Manager Benigno Aguas, voluntarily surrendered yesterday.
Valencia’s wife, Tina Revilla-Valencia, told ABS-CBN News that her husband and Aguas surrendered to the CIDG past 5 p.m. Thursday after their lawyers confirmed that the warrants against them are active.
Her husband, she said, wants to fight it out in court because he has nothing to hide.