GMA no-show in plunder inquiry; Chavez amends rap

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 06 2011 02:57 PM | Updated as of Jun 07 2011 03:36 PM

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - Former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez amended on Monday his complaint-affidavit for plunder against former president now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, former Health Secretary now Civil Service Commission(CSC) chairman Francisco Duque III and former Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) administrator Virgilio Angelo for alleged misuse of some P554.8-million in OWWA funds.

Chavez personally subscribed to his amended complaint before the Department of Justice (DOJ) panel of prosecutors designated by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to handle the preliminary investigation of the case.

The complaint now includes individuals who sat in the OWWA Board of Trustees when it passed Resolution No. 005 Series of 2004 dated February 2, 2004 allowing the transfer of some P530.38-million of the subject overseas workers' funds to the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation(Philhealth/PHIC), namely:

-Patricia Sto. Tomas, former Labor Secretary and then OWWA Board chairperson;
-Rosalinda Baldoz, current Labor Secretary and then member of the OWWA Board of Trustees as Administrator of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA);
-Manuel Imson, then Labor Undersecretary and member of the OWWA Board of Trustees;
-Mina Figueroa, then OWWA Board of Trustees member as representative of the Finance Department;
-Caroline ROgge, then OWWA Board of Trustees member as representative of the Management Sector;
-Victorino Balais, then OWWA Board of Trustees member as representative of the Labor Sector;
-Virginia Pasalo, then OWWA Board of Trustees member as representative of the Women's Sector; and
-Gregorio Oca, current OWWA Board of Trustees member as representative of the Sea-based Sector.

"There is no question that respondents herein were, at all times material to the present charge, 'public officers' within the purview of the Anti-Plunder Act. And the amount in question -- five hundred thirty, three hundred eighty-two, four hundred forty-six Philippine Pesos (PhP 530,382,446.00) -- is way beyond the jurisdictional amount for the application of the Anti-Plunder Act," the amended complaint read.

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 the alleged misuse of the funds was intended to boost Arroyo's 2004 presidential campaign.

Arroyo, Romulo, Duque and Angelo were a no-show in Monday's hearing.

Arroyo counsel Benjamin Santos told the panel his client received the subpoena and copy of the complaint just last June 1, and raised that under the rules, Arroyo has 10 days within which to submit her counter-affidavit. Santos asked for 15 days to submit Arroyo's counter-affidavit due to the amended that complaint was amended.

Romulo counsel Francisco Rivera asked for the same number of days to submit his client's counter-affidavit, stressing that Romulo was not served the subpoena because it bore the wrong address. Rivera asked for 15, instead of 10, days to submit his client's defense because of Chavez's amended complaint.

Atty. Rico Paolo Quicho, counsel for Duque, asked for a 10-day extension to file counter-affidavit stating that while his client was served, they needed time to study the amended complaint.

Angelo's lawyer, Ernesto Perez, who also claimed not having received the subpoena and a copy of the complaint, asked for 15 days to submit his client's counter-affidavit.

Chavez initially opposed the request of respondents to be given 15 days to submit their counter-affidavits saying that is "too long" a period for them to prepare the same, but was prevailed upon by the panel.

The panel decided to set the next hearing and submission of counter-affidavits of all respondents, including the ones listed in the amended complaint, on June 23.