Senator Chiz Escudero is urging the Department of Justice (DOJ) to take cognizance of the pieces of information revealed at the Senate inquiries into the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) fund mess.
Yesterday's second Senate hearing unearthed damaging information that implicated former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo after former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte admitted that she was able to draw additional funds for intelligence operations of the agency, which were later found, at the course of the inquiry, to have been misappropriated and used for questionable or non-existent projects. Uriarte told the Senate panel that portions of the agency's intelligence fund were diverted to relief operations and "blood money" donations to Filipino workers facing death sentences in the Middle East.
All the disbursements, Uriarte admitted, were approved by Arroyo. Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on justice and human rights, said the DOJ should seriously look into Uriarte's testimonies considering that her statements were given under oath and now a matter of public record.
"I leave it with the DOJ to decide on the matter but I hope they will consider the merits and the weight of the testimonies. The PCSO has been used as a promoter of patronage politics by the past administration and as such it has become a source of injustice and inequality in the use and distribution of its charity fund," Escudero pointed out.
The Senator said under the Revised Penal Code both Arroyo and Uriarte may be liable for malversation of public funds.
"At the very least, they could be charged with malversation of public funds given that they used government money for a purpose, however noble, other than what the fund was intended for," the senator said.
He said "personal gain" was not shown nor proven during the hearing to make the liability plunder, the staggering amounts of the said intelligence funds exceeded P50 million notwithstanding.
Escudero said with these revelations, the PCSO charter must be revisited and made true to its purpose and mandate by amending certain provisions that have been abused in the past.