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MANILA, Philippines – For lack of evidence, the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the mallversation harges filed against former President and current Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former officials of her administration over the alleged misuse of more than P530 million funds of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
The 47-page memorandum signed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales turned down a recommendation by a panel of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to file technical malversation charges against Arroyo and 10 others, saying there was “dearth of evidence” to prove that:
“With the absence of any evidence proving these issues, it is improbable to establish that probable cause exist against therespondents,” the memorandum said.
The Ombudsman also found that the amount reached their intended beneficiaries through assistance given to them by the government, according to a separate press statement released by Arroyo’s office.
The memorandum were signed by the panel of investigators composed of Nellie Boguen-Golez and Danilo Lopez, as chairpersons, and AdoracionA gbada, Pilarita Lapitan and Maria Janina Hiladalgo, as members.
The memorandum involving the more than P530 million OWWA fund was dated February 10, 2012 but signed by Morales on June 14, 2012.
“….(R)elative to the questioned Php539,382,446.00 transfer from theOWWA Medical Fund to the PHIC, the complaint against respondents(Arroyo); (then President and CEO of the Philippine Health InsuranceCorp. [PHIC])Francisco Duque III; (then Executive Secretary) AlbertoRomulo; and (then Chairman of the OWWA Board of Trustees) PatriciaSto. Tomas, and (then OWWA Board of Trustees Members) Virgilio Angelo,Manuel Imson, Rosalinda Baldoz, Mina Figueroa, Caroline Rogge,Victorino Balais, Gregorio Oca and Virginia Pasalo be dismissed,” the memorandum stated.
In the supplemental memorandum, which was quoted by Arroyo’s office,it stated that “the Ombudsman also dismissed the charges with respectto the questioned transfer of OWWA funds involving US$293,500.00 andPhp5 million for various acquisitions and activities of Philippineposts abroad.”
The supplemental memorandum was dated September 25, 2012 and approved by Morales on October 12, 2012.
The case stemmed from the complaints for plunder, graft andc orruption, malversation of public funds, qualified theft and violations of the Omnibus Election Code and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials filed by former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez and overseas Filipino group Migrante in 2011before the DOJ.
They also accused the respondents of illegally diverting US$293,500 and another P5 million in OWWA funds for the purchase of vehicles and stockpiling of Philippine posts aboard.
The DOJ in its recommendation to the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the plunder and graft charges against Arroyo and her co-respondents but recommended that they be charged with technical malversation.
But this was thumbed down by the Ombudsman saying there was no evidence to support such case.
It said the transfer of the more than P530 million OWWA fund to PHIC was perfectly legal as it was in accordance with Republic Act 7875 (Philhealth Law) and its Implementing Rules and Regulations as confirmed by DOJ Opinion No. 25 signed by then Secretary Teofisto Guingona Jr.
The case was the third dismissal of the Ombudsman of plunder complaint against the former President. The first involved the Iloilo airport and the second, the botched $329-million National Broadband Network project with China's ZTE Corporation.
Arroyo is currently under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City over another plunder case, involving the alleged misuse of funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). She is also facing an electoral sabotage case before the Pasay City Regional Trial Court.