MANILA, Philippines – Former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) board member Jose Taruc has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to reverse the finding of probable cause against him for the crime of plunder in connection with the alleged misuse of P365 million in PCSO funds, and nullify the warrant for his arrest.
Taruc is a co-accused of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo, and several others.
In a 41-page petition for certiorari and prohibition filed on Thursday, Taruc alleged that the Office of the Ombudsman committed grave abuse of discretion in "ignoring its factual findings that petitioner (Taruc) did not benefit the least from the public funds in question."
He pointed out that his other co-accused, Sergio Valencia and Rosario Uriarte, were found to have been the approving authority of the disbursement vouchers for the subject funds, and allegedly received the funds in question.
"What petitioner would like to emphasize is the fact that the respondent office (Office of the Ombudsman) had, with gross unreasonableness, included the petitioner... as respondent in the plunder case notwithstanding its very specific findings that the locus of culpability lies with other respondents," the petition read.
Taruc stressed that he "never had control, custody or possession of the subject funds."
The petition also pointed out that the Ombudsman failed to present proof of criminal intent required in the crime of plunder.
The petition further stressed that presidential approval, not the PCSO Board's action, was essential in the access and utilization of the agency's funds.
"[I]t would be highly implausible to expect the PCSO Board to disapprove, lay on the table, or not to confirm the request already containing then Pres. Arroyo's imprimatur," the petition read.
Taruc sought the immediate issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) to enjoin the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan from enforcing the warrant for his arrest, and a writ of preliminary injunction to direct the anti-graft office and anti-graft court to cease from proceeding with the trial of the case.
Taruc has remained at large; he was reported to have left the country on July 19 on board a Cathay Pacific flight.