Duque: No basis for OWWA fund misuse charge

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 11 2012 04:14 PM | Updated as of Jan 12 2012 07:03 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Former Health Secretary Francisco Duque believes there is no basis to file technical malversation charges against him and several others for the alleged misuse of over P530-million Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) funds during the Arroyo administration.

Duque, the current Civil Service Commission (CSC) chairman, said the charge is baseless because the transfer of the OWWA Medicare Fund to Philhealth is based on Republic Act (RA) No. 7875, which authorizes Philhealth to integrate all Medicare systems in the country.

"There is really no factual basis whatsoever. All the monies are accounted for and all checks properly receipted. The money from OWWA Medical Program went to Philhealth straight and the funds were used directly for the benefit of OFWs," he told ANC's "On the Scene" on Wednesday.

He said the transfer occurred in 2005, almost a year after the 2004 presidential election. He said the Commission on Audit (COA) had no adverse findings on the money transfer.

Duque said he will talk to his lawyers to move for the dismissal of the case.

Duque, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, former Executive Secretary and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and former OWWA Administrator Virgilio Angelo are facing technical malversation charges for the OWWA Medicare fund transfer.

Former Solicitor General Frank Chavez had accused Mrs. Arroyo et al of "purposely and systematically" orchestrating the diversion and misuse of OWWA funds to bankroll the financing of questionable acquisitions by several Philippine diplomatic posts in the Middle East, as well as Arroyo's 2004 presidential bid.

Chavez had alleged that officials misappropriated, misused and plundered OWWA funds.

Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva said there is no justification why OWWA funds--instead of funds from the Department of Foreign Affairs--were used to finance preparatory activities in Philippine posts in the Middle East in the US-led war versus Iraq.

Palace welcomes charges

Malacañang, meanwhile, welcomed the DOJ's recommendation to file malversation charges over the OWWA Medicare fund misuse.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda defended the downgrade of the case from plunder to malversation, saying it is better that they file a case they can convict rather than a case that will fail.

Arroyo's spokeswoman, Elena Bautista Horn, declined to comment on the matter since they have yet to receive a copy of the DOJ recommendation. With reports from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News; and ANC