DOJ forms panel to handle Arroyo plunder case

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 11 2011 12:52 PM | Updated as of May 11 2011 08:52 PM

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has created a 3-man panel of prosecutors to handle the preliminary investigation of the plunder complaint filed by former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez against former president and now Pampanga representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and 3 officials of the Arroyo administration for alleged misuse of Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) funds.

In a Department Order dated May 3, 2011, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima designated Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva as panel chairman.

Senior Assistant State Prosecutors Elizabeth Inton-Santos and Lilian Doris Alejo were designated as members.

The 23-page complaint, filed by Chavez last April 26, also named former Arroyo executive secretary and former foreign affairs secretary Alberto Romulo, former health secretary and current Civil Service Commission(CSC) chairman Francisco Duque III, and former OWWA administrator Virgilio Angelo as respondents.

Aside from plunder, Chavez charged Arroyo, et al. of malversation and/or illegal use of OWWA funds, graft and corruption, violations of the Omnibus Election Code and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials, and qualified theft.

Chavez claimed some P554.8-million in OWWA funds derived from contributions of overseas filipino workers(OFW) and their employers were misused by respondents, over P530-million of which was transferred from the OWWA Medicare Fund to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation(Philhealth/PHIC) in February 2004 to allegedly boost Arroyo's presidential campaign.

Duque, for his part, had told ABS-CBN News the transfer of funds to Philhealth was above-board and done in 2005 - after Arroyo was elected into office.

Chavez vowed that 8 other OWWA board trustees will be included in the complaint for signing a board resolution that approved the transfer of funds from the OWWA Medicare Program to Philhealth, namely, then Labor and Employment secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas who was also then chairperson of the board; then Philippine Overseas Employment Administration(POEA) administrator and now Labor secretary Rosalinda Baldoz; Manuel Imson, former Labor undersecretary; Mina Figueroa, a representative of the Finance Department; Caroline Rogge(management sector); Victorino Balais(labor sector), Gregorio Oca(sea-based sector); and Virginia Pasalo(women's sector).

The results of the DOJ preliminary investigation, should probable cause be determined against respondents, will be endorsed to the Office of the Ombudsman which will have the final say on whether to file the appropriate information against respondents.