Arroyo faces plunder raps over 'misuse' of OWWA funds

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 26 2011 12:18 PM | Updated as of Apr 27 2011 03:30 PM

Arroyo ally says use of OWWA funds legal

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - Plunder and malversation complaints were filed on Tuesday against former President and now Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and several allies for alleged misuse of Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) funds.

In his complaint, former Solicitor General Frank Chavez accused Arroyo, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, former Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and former OWWA Administrator Virgilio Angelo of "purposely and systematically orchestrated diversion and/or misuse of the OWWA fund, financing questionable acquisitions by several Philippine diplomatic posts in the Mid East, the humanitarian assistance to Iraq, and the reelection bid of CGMA [Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo]." (Click here to read complaint-affidavit)

He accused Arroyo et al of plunder, qualified theft, violations of the Omnibus Election Code and violations of the Code of Conduct  and Ethical Standards of Public Officials.

The complaint said the amount of public funds in question totals P554.8 million, way beyond the P50 million requirement of the law for an act to constitute plunder. Out of the P554.8 million, a total of P530 million from the OWWA Medicare Fund was allegedly diverted to PhilHealth to help Arroyo's re-election bid. 

Chavez was supported by Migrante International during the filing of the charges at the Department of Justice. The group promised to help by providing witnesses.

Whistleblowers Sandra Cam, Jose Barredo and Melchor Magdamo challenged President Benigno Aquino III to make good his promise to stamp out corruption by prosecuting Arroyo et al.

Duque defends fund transfer

Duque, current chair of the Civil Service Commission, defended the transfer of funds.

In an interview with ANC Top Story on Tuesday, said he has all the documents to show that the transfer and use of OWWA funds followed the law.

He said the fund transfer was mandated by Republic Act 7875, or the National Health Insurance Program Law, which was affirmed by a Department of Justice opinion in 2002.

“We have a legal basis,” Duque said. “We have all the documents.”

“Furthermore, this was already a subject of a Senate investigation in 2005,” he said.

Duque said RA 7875 ordered the integration of the Medicare under the Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System. He said the final link was OWWA.

He also denied that the fund transfer had anything to do with the 2004 elections, as explained by the contents of a note he sent to Arroyo regarding the program’s impact on the presidential polls.

“It was a benign note I gave to the President... to make the transfer smooth and orderly, I merely pointed out that it has a bearing on the 2004 elections,” he said.

“If the transfer is stormy and full of complications, OFWs will use it to bring down the president. If transfer is well planned and executed, it will be for the benefit of the OFWs,” Duque said.

“I did not say it would make her lose,” he added, saying that if the transfer is not smooth, "it may create a political backlash."

Chavez: OFW funds used for politics

Chavez in the same interview with ANC, countered Duque’s statements.

“May I remind you that in that proposal you said, the proposed tansfer of funds of OWWA to Philhealth will have a bearing on the elections,” he said.

“You were using money of OFW for political purposes,” Chavez added.

He said the fund transfer was made without consultation of affected OFWs.

“Duque even panicked….The law existing at the time already insured the OFWs," Chavez said.

“Sec. Duque said it is a benign statement. It is the most malignantly benign statement. He was inciting the President to approve the transfer that will affect the campaign of the President in the elections,” Chavez said.

Arroyo scandals

Arroyo has been linked to a slew of controversies since taking over as president in January 2001 after President Joseph Estrada was removed from office.

Among the controversies linked to Arroyo during her 9-year presidency were:

  • distribution of P728 million in fertilizer funds to Arroyo allies during 2004 elections
  • approval of US$329 million NBN-ZTE deal, which was later rescinded
  • alleged rigging of the 2004 polls as revealed in the "Hello, Garci" wiretap tapes
  • overpricing of the P1.1 billion Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard;
  • alleged links to jueteng lords
  • cash gifts to congressmen and governors as revealed by Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio
  • P9.5 billion contract for rice importation awarded to a Malacañang ally.  - with a report from Jojo Malig,