Accused in GMA plunder case resurfaces after 4 years

Carolyn Bonquin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 27 2016 01:05 PM | Updated as of Oct 27 2016 04:13 PM

Ma. Fatima Valdes, one of the three accused in former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's plunder case, appeared before the Sandiganbayan on Thursday after four years in hiding.

Valdes entered a not guilty plea to the plunder case linking her to alleged illegal diversion of P365.9-million of confidential/intelligence funds to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

Valdes was a PCSO Board of Director member when the intelligence funds were transferred to the charity agency. She now faces a plunder case, a non-bailable offense.

Her lawyers, however, asked to adopt the bail plea proceedings of other co-accused whose cases have been dismissed. The prosecution said Valdes should be required to post a P1-million bail as she was in hiding for years.

Lawyer Peter Bantilan said Valdes arrived in the Philippines two weeks ago. He said Valdes was in New Zealand even before the issuance of a warrant of arrest for plunder in 2012.

Sandiganbayan records show Valdes arrived in the Philippines on Oct. 11 at 11:00 p.m. She immediately surrendered to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) upon arrival.

Arroyo's plunder case was dismissed by the Supreme Court last July 19. Also dismissed were cases against PCSO officer Benigno Aguas due to insufficiency of evidence.

Prior to this, the Sandiganbayan cleared other respondents Sergio Valencia, Manuel Morato, Raymundo Roquero, Jose Taruc and Reynaldo Villar.

Charges against Valdes, former PCSO General Manager Rosario Uriarte, and former Commission on Audit Director Nilda Plaras, who were at large when the high court's decision was released, however still stand. Uriarte and Plaras remain in hiding.

HOSPITAL ARREST

From the Sandiganbayan, Valdes went straight to the Makati Medical Center where she was allowed to stay for continued heart-ailment medical treatment. She had been staying in the hospital since her arrival.

Based on an urgent motion for hospital arrest, Valdes was reportedly "not feeling well" while on her flight back to the Philippines.

Her cardiologist, Dr. Roberto Anastacio examined Valdes while under NBI's custody and directed her confinement at the intensive care unit to stabilize her "very high blood pressure."

"Furthermore, Dr. Anastacio has placed Accused Valdes in a high risk for stroke and there is possibility that Accused Valdes might undergo angiogram procedure based on her health in the next few days," the motion read.

Lawyers told Sandiganbayan that Valdes, now 69 years old, has a heart condition. They said Valdes previously underwent an open plastic surgery for a post-aortic valve replacement. She also has a simultaneous dual chamber pacemaker.