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MANILA, Philippines - The Office of the Ombudsman during Thursday's hearing asked the Sandiganbayan to issue a warrant of arrest against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was released from the Veterans Memorial Medical Center Wednesday after a judge granted her motion for bail on the ground that the electoral sabotage charges filed against her were weak.
Through a motion, prosecutors asked the anti-graft court's First Division to immediately issue the warrant against the current Pampanga representative, who earlier this month was charged with the non-bailable offese of plunder for the alleged misuse of multimillion-peso intelligence fund of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
Last Tuesday, the Bureau of Immigration issued a hold departure order against Arroyo and several others in connection with the said plunder case.
Despite the hold departure order, those accused in the plunder case "can still ask the court to allow them to travel abroad," according to prosecutor Diosdado Calonge.
But Arroyo's counsel Christian Diaz argued that an arrest warrant is unnecessary because there's already a hold departure order. Diaz said his client "is not a flight risk."
Moreover, Diaz said that an arrest warrant cannot be issued because the preliminary investigation of the case involving Arroyo has not yet been completed by the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman filed the plunder case against Arroyo and other government officials from the PCSO and the Commission on Audit (COA) last July 16.
The other officials are former General Manager Rosario Uriarte; former board members Sergio Valencia, Manuel Morato, Raymundo Roquero, Jose Taruc, and Ma. Fatima Valdes; former COA Chair Reynaldo Villar and Region V head Nilda Plaras, and PCSO assistant general manager for finance Benigno Aguas.
The charge sheet alleged that the respondents "conspired…in withdrawing, amassing, accumulating public funds worth P391.9 million from July 2007 to January 2010…[and] by circumventing and/or violating the subject COA circulars relative…to the liquidation of complainant PCSO’s intelligence/confidential funds," the information for plunder stated.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales underscored the evidence that indicated Uriarte wrote to then-President Arroyo eight times requesting that she be allowed to draw from the agency’s intelligence fund.
Uriarte drew P310 million from the intelligence fund and half of the amount was taken out on January 4, 2010.
Based on documents received by the Ombudsman, the reason of releasing the intelligence funds was “to monitor the PCSO’s charitable activities and projects; to buy information to determine if the funds were being used for the purposes for which [they] were intended; to fund an investigation of how medicine given to beneficiaries marked ‘Botika ng Masa’ had ended up in commercial markets, and to counter various scams victimizing lotto bettors and winners.”