Aquino Cabinet member linked to OWWA fund mess

By RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 27 2011 03:58 PM | Updated as of Apr 28 2011 04:41 PM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez is poised to include an Aquino Cabinet member in the plunder case he has filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and 3 other officials for alleged misuse of  some half a billion pesos worth of funds from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in 2003.

Chavez said a closer look at the documents he intends to use as primary evidence in the plunder case shows that one of the signatories in the OWWA board resolution allowing the transfer of the funds to Philhealth is current Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.

Baldoz was chairman of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration at the time of the transaction.

In response to Chavez's statement, Baldoz said in a text message to ABS-CBN: "I will cooperate in the investigation."

Chavez showed reporters Arroyo's marginal notes in documents authorizing the transfer of money from OWWA. “Kitang kita sa marginal notes niya 'OK, charge to OWWA' Ok from OWWA in response to the memorandum submitted by then Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo," he said.

One of the documents is a March 12, 2003 memo from then Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo requesting the approval of US$193, 500 for the diplomatic posts in Lebanon, Jordan, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt and Iran. The money is supposed to cover vehicles and stockpiling amid the US-Iraq War.

Romulo then quotes the same marginal note in a March 15, 2003 instruction letter to then OWWA Administrator Virgilio Angelo.

Chavez also showed  a May 5, 2003 memo with a marginal note from Arroyo giving the OK to release P5 million in funds from OWWA for a task force on humanitarian aid to Iraq.

That same marginal note is then quoted by then Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Joaquin Lagonera in a memo letter to Angelo.

Chavez also showed OWWA Board Resolution 005,  transferring  P530, 302, 446 from the OWWA Medicare Fund to the Philhealth.

The resolution was signed  by then  OWWA Board Chairman and concurrent Labor Secretary Patricia Santo Tomas and then POEA Chairman and current Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.

Chavez said Sto. Tomas and Baldoz will be asked to explain their possible involvement in the fund diversion. If warranted, they will be included in the plunder charge.

Chavez listed himself as a witness. He wants the Department of Justice to subpoena the records custodians of Malacañang, OWWA, Department of Health and the Office of the Executive Secretary for the case.

Chavez believes the DOJ can file the case directly with the Sandiganbayan. He doesn’t want to risk being disappointed by filing it with the Office of the Ombudsman who was appointed into office by Arroyo.

“I don’t want to be frustrated again by filing before known lackey and protector and defender …I filed with this Department of Justice hoping probable cause will be established and make necessary endorsement either to Ombudsman or direct filing with the Sandiganbayan," he said.

This plunder case is the 2nd plunder case against Arroyo after she lost presidential immunity on June 30, 2010.

Like Chavez, another private citizen filed the 1st plunder case October last year—involving the non-remittance of over P70 million of documentary stamp taxes for the privatization of the Bacolod-Silay International Airport in Silay City. That case, filed with the DOJ, is due for resolution. -- with a report from Chiara Zambrano, ABS-CBN News