Sandigan acquits ex-PCSO director in plunder case

Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 03 2017 12:02 PM

MANILA - The Sandiganbayan has cleared former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) director Ma. Fatima A.S. Valdes of plunder over the allegedly anomalous use of the charity agency's funds.

Valdes is among the remaining accused in the plunder case against former president and incumbent Pampanga Representative Gloria Arroyo. The case stemmed from the alleged misuse of P365 million in confidential/intelligence funds.

Valdes came back from New Zealand on October 11, 2016, and directly surrendered to the National Bureau of Investigation---three months after the Supreme Court ruled to dismiss Arroyo's case.

On March 30, 2017, the Sandiganbayan First Division dismissed her plunder case after granting her demurrer to evidence.

A demurrer of evidence is a motion to dismiss the case for lack of sufficient evidence to convict the accused. It urges the court to decide on the case halfway through the trial based solely on the evidence presented by prosecution.

CASE DISMISSAL

In a resolution on Valdes' demurrer to evidence, the Sandiganbayan adopted its earlier resolution which dismissed the cases of the other accused PCSO board of directors Manuel Morato, Raymundo Roquero, and Jose Taruc.

The Sandiganbayan said Valdes was "similarly situated" with Morato, Roquero and Taruc as she was among the PCSO directors accused of conniving, conspiring, and confederating in the accumulation of P365.998-million ill-gotten wealth after allegedly diverting the PCSO's operating budget to its Confidential/Intelligence Funds (CIF), and raiding the public treasury by withdrawing and transferring said amount through irregular disbursement vouchers and fictitious expenditures.

The April 6, 2015 resolution of the Sandiganbayan acquitted Morato, Roquero and Taruc after the prosecution failed to prove the elements of plunder in their case.

For one, the Sandiganbayan found no proof of conspiracy between the board of directors and PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte as "there was no preconceived plan or agreement" on the approval of funds transfer.

"There is no evidence that the accused directors were privy to any of Uriarte's requests or in the utilization of additional funds given to her office," the Sandiganbayan quoted its 2015 resolution.
"What the evidence show, insofar as the board was concerned, is that Uriarte's request and each president's (Arroyo) "OK" happened exclusively just between the two of them...there is therefore no evidence that accused PCSO directors knew about Uriarte's reasons for the requests of even the amounts of requested CIF."

Prior this, the Supreme Court dismissed the plunder case against Arroyo and co-accused Benigno Aguas due to insufficiency of evidence.

Meanwhile, Sandiganbayan also cleared other respondents Sergio Valencia, and Reynaldo Villar from the case.

With this, the remaining accused in the plunder case are former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte and former Commission on Audit director Nilda Paras. Uriarte already surrendered last November, while Paras remains at-large.