Arroyo OK'd PCSO intel fund releases

By Ira Pedrasa, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Jul 07 2011 11:31 AM | Updated as of Jul 08 2011 12:52 AM

Arroyo OK'd PCSO intel fund releases 1
Former Philippine Charity and Sweepstakes Office general manager Rosario Uriarte answers questions during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing together with former PCSO chairman Manoling Morato. Photo by Johnpaul Roy

 

Ex-GM says P150-M budget was personally approved by GMA

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) used an intelligence fund worth P150 million in the first 6 months of 2010, an election year.

Senator Teofisto Guingona III noted this is even bigger than the intelligence fund of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) “and used only in 6 months’ time.”

He noted the disbursements were made during the months towards and immediately after the election period.

He noted a total of P325 million was spent from 2008 to the first 6 months of 2010.

“If the money was used to suppress illegal activities, may nahuli na ba? Where were they used…why did they have to pass through President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo?” he said.

Former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte confirmed the intelligence budget, with documents personally approved by no less than former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

During the hearing in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, documents shown did not bear registration stamps, but the words “OK” and what appears to be the signature of Arroyo. Uriarte confirmed those were indeed the signatures of Arroyo.

She said only P60 million was earmarked for intelligence operations. They had to ask for another P90 million before Arroyo stepped down from office. “We were already realigning the budget for one year,” she said.

Of the P150 million, P138.2 million was spent, she said.

As in the previous years, the intelligence fund is supposedly used to suppress nefarious activities, such as the sale of PCSO-donated medicines and the illegal numbers game. In 2010, Uriarte said the money was specifically used for the roll-out of the small town lottery game (STL).

Close to Arroyo

The senators, however, took note that the money was almost utilized even before the end of 2010.

Senator Franklin Drilon said Uriarte’s statements implied that “the funds were used for other purposes rather than for which they were approved. You’re even implicating that [Arroyo] knew all of this.”

The current leadership of the PCSO claims that a portion of PCSO’s funds have been used by Arroyo to get the favor of bishops. They named several prelates who supposedly received luxury cars.

Uriarte claims to be close to Arroyo, having met her in the late 1980s. She has also worked with the former President several times in the past, starting with her stint at the Department of Trade and Industry.

Where are the STLs?

Had the PCSO spent so much, the presence of STL should have already been strongly felt nationwide, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile noted. Still, the STL has not been successful in curbing jueteng, he said.

The senators criticized Uriarte for toying with her answers, with Senator Panfilo Lacson alleging at one point that she was lying. The senator said she does not know anything on intelligence operations but still insists on being the project officer for the P150 million intelligence fund.

“If you keep on answering like that, papasok ka sa bilanggo. Be careful with your answers. The series of transactions [come within the] real definition of plunder,” Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said.

It was only when former PCSO chairman and director Manuel “Manoling” Morato butted in that the senators retreated. Morato said Uriarte was not too upfront of her answers “because she was supposed to go on executive session. That was the arrangement.”

The senators agreed to an executive session with Uriarte next week.