Last of PCSO plunder accused to walk free
MANILA – The Supreme Court has cleared of malversation a former head of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) who was among those accused of plunder with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over the release of the P365-million PCSO confidential and intelligence funds from 2008 to 2010.
In a decision dated June 10, the SC 1st Division reversed the Sandiganbayan’s denial of Sergio Valencia’s demurrer to evidence - a motion to dismiss based on insufficiency of evidence - saying the anti-graft court gravely abused its discretion in denying his plea despite the “lack of specific allegations of the factual details pertaining to the crime of malversation in the information.”
Valencia was one of 10 government officials, along with Arroyo, indicted by the Office of the Ombudsman for plunder in 2012.
The Sandigabayan, however, allowed him to post bail in June 2013, saying the evidence presented at the time did not prove he was guilty of plunder since his cash advances only amounted to P13.3 million or below the P50-million threshold for plunder.
On this basis, he moved to have the case dismissed claiming the prosecution failed to prove he amassed ill-gotten wealth amounting to P50 million.
In its April and September 2015 resolutions, the Sandiganbayan denied Valencia’s plea, applying the variance rule under the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure which allows conviction on an offense proven if it is included in the offense charged.
Since the elements of malversation were proven, the anti-graft court said, he could still be convicted of malversation.
But the Supreme Court disagreed, citing a factually similar case which acquitted Arroyo and another co-accused Benigno Aguas, a former PCSO budgets and accounts officer.
The April 18, 2017 resolution in that case found that the prosecution failed to sufficiently allege factual details showing the essential elements of malversation.
“It is well to note that the Information subject of the aforementioned cases of Arroyo and Aguas is the very same information under scrutiny in the present case wherein petitioner is their co-accused and where all the incidental matters stemmed and had their origin,” the Court said.
“Hence, there is no reason not to apply the afore-quoted ruling in the present petition since it has reached its finality, per Entry of Judgment, on May 30, 2017,” it added explaining the need to respect finality of judgments and to avoid the possibility of conflicting rulings.
The decision was penned by recently retired SC Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo and concurred in by division members Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, and Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr. Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang was on leave.
Valencia’s acquittal means all 10 government officials accused of plunder in the PCSO intelligence funds case have been cleared.
The Supreme Court acquitted Arroyo and Aguas of plunder in a landmark ruling in July 2016, which introduced the concept of a main plunderer.
Other accused have since been acquitted of plunder on the basis of Arroyo’s acquittal, the latest of whom were former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte in May 2018 and Commission on Audit intelligence/confidential fund fraud audit unit head Nilda Plaras in October 2017.