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Ex-Pres. Arroyo, 3 others face technical malversation raps

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The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday recommended the filing of technical malversation charges against former President and now Pampanga (2nd District) Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and three others in connection with the alleged questionable diversion of more than US$ 250,000 funds supposedly for the medical benefits of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Aside from Rep. Arroyo, the DOJ panel of prosecutors, chaired by Senior State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva, also recommended the filing of similar charges against former Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alberto Romulo, former Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Chief Virgilio Angelo and former Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) president and current Civil Service Commission (CSC) Chair Francisco Duque III.

The DOJ panel said that they could not find any justification why the OWWA funds should be used to finance the preparatory activities of the Philippine post in the Middle East.

Complainant former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez alleged that Mrs. Arroyo approved the diversion of some US$ 293,500, or roughly P16.5 million, from OWWA funds to finance preparatory activities such as stockpiling and purchase of vehicles of several posts in Lebanon, Jordan, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt and Iran in support of the United States-led war in Iraq.

Chavez, quoting the 1987 Constitution said that “all money collected on any tax levied for a special purpose shall be treated as a special fund and paid out for such purpose only.”

He said that if the purpose for which a special fund was created has been fulfilled or abandoned, the balance, if any shall be transferred to the general funds of the government.

In this case, Chavez said, OWWA fund by its very nature and express statutory edicts “is meant for the direct and exclusive benefit of OFWs. Thus…approving said requests for disbursements to be drawn from the OWWA fund, respondents have clearly violated the constitution.”

On the other hand, the DOJ dismissed the case against former Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary and erstwhile CSC Chair Patricia Sto. Tomas and incumbent DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz for lack of evidence.

By PNA




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