MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office
(PCSO) had misused hundreds of millions of pesos, mostly for dubious
intelligence activities, in a span of three years during the previous
Arroyo administration, its former chief told the Senate yesterday.
At the resumption of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee’s inquiry into
alleged anomalies in the use of PCSO funds, former PCSO general manager
Rosario Uriarte said former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo approved
her request on Jan. 4, 2010 to divert 20 percent of the agency’s public
relations budget or a minimum of P150 million to intelligence
“In other words, what happened in your case is that you are making up
a story that you are going to use this money for intelligence when in
fact you are using it for a purpose other than intelligence,” an
indignant Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile told Uriarte.
“You are actually using it for another purpose. You are disguising
the disbursement as intelligence fund because it is easy to liquidate.
You are not really using it for stamping out illegal numbers game, to
protect the interest of PCSO,” he added.
Uriarte said then President Arroyo approved a total of P325 million
in intelligence funds in a span of three years, P160 million of which
was in 2010 alone.
Another P10 million for the same purpose was approved by the Office of the President during the campaign period in 2010.
Based on documents provided to the Senate, a total of P75 million in
intelligence funds were requested and approved in 2008, and in 2009, the
figure went up to P90 million.
She said that in the first seven months of 2010 or before President
Aquino removed her and fellow board members, P138.2 million of the
intelligence funds had already been spent.
Uriarte fumbled when explaining how the intelligence funds had
been spent. She said the funds went to intelligence assets, surveillance
on illegal numbers game operations, the rollout of the small town
lottery (STL) project of the PCSO, payment of blood money for overseas
Filipino workers on death row and for typhoon relief operations.
She admitted that she handed the request letters directly to Arroyo
and that the former president approved these during those meetings.
Asked if they knew about the projects enumerated by Uriarte, the
former members of the PCSO board led by its chairman Sergio Valencia
said that they were not aware of this.
“The letters were discussed in the board meetings. We confirmed the
approvals of the President. This has been the practice,” Valencia said.
Uriarte said she would inform the PCSO board in executive session of
any planned disbursement of intelligence funds. This means that there
were no records of these meetings.
Uriarte explained that she had to seek the approval of the president
for additional intelligence funds because the PCSO is under the Office
of the President.
She also admitted that Arroyo knew about the use of the intelligence funds because they would discuss it during their meetings.
She claimed that the request for a huge amount in intelligence funds
in 2010 was meant to support the rollout of the STL project of the PCSO.
Uriarte justified the promotion of the STL, saying the PCSO was able
to generate P7.9 billion in revenues when it was still in the
Uriarte also said that intelligence funds had been used to provide blood money for OFWs on death row.
She recalled that there had been four cases, each costing P5 million for a total of P20 million.
Uriarte said that the blood money was given in cash directly to
former foreign affairs undersecretary for migrant workers affairs
Liable for plunder
Enrile denounced the diversion of the intelligence funds of the PCSO and said Uriarte may be held liable for plunder.
“You are digging yourself into a hole with your statements. I pity
you. You know, I tell you, and you better consult your lawyer, if you
are charged for the disbursement of this fund, you cannot give this kind
of answers to a judge. You will go to jail,” Enrile said.
“You better be careful, this is a series of transactions, it comes
under the real definition of plunder and the way you are answering it,
you are putting yourself inside jail,” he added.
Sen. Franklin Drilon admonished Uriarte for being loose in the handling of intelligence funds.
“You implicated the former president by saying that the former
president knew all of this, approved of all of this. I hope you realize
what you are saying. You are implicating the former president by your
statements that she was part of this crime,” Drilon said.
He said that it would be up to the former president, who is now congresswoman of Pampanga, to give her side on the issue.
Drilon noted that Uriarte’s statements were “very, very damaging” and
that the ombudsman should take a look at her testimonies and “see what
liabilities the former president has on the basis of that testimony
under oath of Uriarte.”
“Certainly there is basis for the ombudsman to conduct a thorough investigation.”
Senate Blue Ribbon committee chairman Teofisto Guingona III said that
public opinion about the issue as well as the ongoing inquiry should
prompt the former president to come out with an explanation about the
use of the PCSO’s intelligence funds.
“This is very serious and this amounts to plunder and if it’s not
properly explained, this can also go to the courts and there she has to
explain,” Guingona said.
Sen. Francis Escudero said Uriarte and Arroyo could face malversation raps for the misuse of PCSO’s intelligence funds.
“Under oath at the Senate, she readily admitted to using the
intelligence fund to offset other requests for funding like blood money
and relief operations and under oath, she also said that former
President Arroyo was knowledgeable and approved all of these
transactions,” Escudero said.
“No matter how noble the intentions were, these still do not justify
the misappropriation of the funds intended for what they claimed to be
for intelligence operations,” he added.
He explained that under the law, any public officer who misuses or
misappropriates public funds is guilty of malversation and could face
life imprisonment under the Revised Penal Code.
The Senate will resume its hearings next Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Migrante joined the growing call for the filing of plunder
charges against former President Arroyo and several PCSO officials and
“If it is indeed true that part of PCSO’s intel funds amounting to
P20 million have been used for the ‘blood money’ of OFWs in Saudi death
row, why were OFWs Reynaldo Cortez and Jenifer Beduya executed by sword
in 2007 and 2008, respectively?” John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-ME
regional coordinator, asked.
“Given the extent of graft and corruption in the Arroyo government,
we are not sure if the P20 million intel funds from PCSO diverted to the
DFA were indeed used for the blood money of OFWs in Saudi death row,”
Monterona urged the Blue Ribbon committee to summon Conejos and ask
him to testify on the PCSO intel funds used for the blood money of OFWs
in Saudi death row.
No more donation
Malacañang, for its part, vowed yesterday to stop the practice of
giving hefty donations only to allies of the administration using PCSO
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said in a press briefing in
Malacañang that major reforms would be undertaken by the PCSO board to
ensure that the agency’s funds would be used prudently to avoid
“That’s going be part of the reforms,” Lacierda said, referring to the use of PCSO funds for partisan purposes.
“The past administration had been hit incessantly for (allegedly)
donating 20 ambulances to one governor. I’m sure that will not happen
again. And if you want transparency, we can certainly ask the PCSO to be
transparent with their dealings,” Lacierda said.
Lacierda could not say whether the practice of donating to bishops
would be stopped as the PCSO would have to be the ones to decide on it.
“We don’t want to say that we’re controlling them. We want to wait for
their decision on that matter,” he said.
But he said they were expecting the PCSO to be more circumspect in their donations.
“Gauging from the revelations made by the PCSO, I think they will be
more prudent in deciding requests for assistance. That’s all I can say,
that they will be going through the request with a fine-toothed comb and
making sure that the purpose for which the request is sought is geared
towards charitable purposes. That’s all I can say until we receive a
report from PCSO,” Lacierda said.
“Very, very clear they (PCSO) will be more strict, that is one thing very clear based on the revelations,” Lacierda said.
Lacierda said PCSO officials’ reporting directly to the President may
also be looked into, although he noted that Aquino would always meet
with all the officials of the agency and not just one or a few of them.
“It’s always been the entire board,” he said.
“We can argue without being disagreeable and we can argue without
being personal. Unfortunately some of the bishops have taken upon
themselves to hurl personal accusations against the President and we
have not done so. We only respond to their statements and we will do so
and continue to protect the President,” Lacierda said.
“Let the people decide. Let the public decide on their (bishops)
conduct. The public knows who asked for a Pajero for his birthday so let
the public judge him. We will not be the one to make a judgment,”