Sandiganbayan acquits ex-PCSO exec of plunder

MANILA The Sandiganbayan has acquitted former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) general manager Rosario Uriarte of plunder in connection with the alleged misuse of the intelligence funds of the state lottery agency, amounting to PHP366 million.

Here considering that 10 persons have been accused of amassing, accumulating and/or acquiring ill-gotten wealth aggregating PHP365,997,951, it would be improbable that the crime charged was plunder if none of them was alleged to be the main plunderer. As such, each of the 10 accused would account for the aliquot amount of only PHP36,599,791.50, or exactly 1/10 of the alleged aggregate ill-gotten wealth, which is far below the threshold value of ill-gotten wealth required for plunder," the anti-graft court's First Division said in an 11-page decision dated May 11, 2018.

It is notable that the COA, although frowning upon PCSO's co-mingling of funds, did not rule such co-mingling as illegal. As such, sourcing the requested additional CIF's from one account was far from illegal, the court added.

The Supreme Court earlier acquitted Uriarte's co-accused Manuel Morato, Jose Taruc V, Raymundo Roquero, and Reynaldo Villar on demurrer to evidence on April 6, 2015.

The High Court upheld the acquittal of former President and now Pampanga 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyyo and Benigno Aguas on Apr. 18, 2017. It became final and executory on May 30, 2017.

Uriarte surrendered to the operatives of the National Bureau of Investigation on Nov. 16, 2016. She was later arraigned on Nov. 22, 2016, and entered a not guilty to the charge against her.

She was allowed to post bail for her temporary liberty on June 22, 2017.

In fine, the prosecution's failure to properly allege the main plunderer should be fatal to the cause of the State against the petitioners for violating the rights of each accused to be informed of the charges against each of them, the Sandiganbayan said.

The prosecution has not adduced any new or compelling evidence to warrant a finding different from what has already been rendered by the Supreme Court. Thus, as the High Tribunal categorically cleared Uriarte of culpability from the instant charge of plunder, it behooves this Court to acquit her, the anti-graft court said, in clearing the former PCSO official of the charge.

With her acquittal, the Sandiganbayan also ordered the lifting of the hold departure order against Uriarte and her bond released. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency