MANILA—The Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) has filed charges before the Sandiganbayan against three former executives of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) for allegedly getting a free trip to Australia from the contractor of a lottery paper supply agreement.
Former general manager and vice chair Rosario Uriarte and former board members Jose Taruc V and Fatima Valdez face charges for one count each of violating Section 3(b) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”, and Section 7(d) of RA No. 6713, or the “Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees”.
In February 2010, Uriarte, Taruc and Valdez allegedly “received a gift in the form of an all-expense paid trip to Australia” from Australian paper manufacturer TMA Group of Companies (TMA).
The gift was “in consideration of their intervention as officers of PCSO in the approval of a Joint Venture Agreement” between PCSO and TMA for the establishment of a thermal coating and printing plant in the Philippines,” the Ombudsman said in its complaint.
The Ombudsman recommended a PHP60,000 bail for each of the three accused facing the two cases.
The 25-year joint venture agreement signed in December 2009 was suspended by the PCSO upon the start of the Aquino administration, and later cancelled for allegedly being disadvantageous to the government.
Uriarte, Taruc and Valdez were the co-accused officials in the plunder case against former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the alleged misuse of PHP366 million in PCSO confidential intelligence funds.
In April 2015, the Sandiganbayan granted Taruc’s demurrer of evidence and effectively dismissed his case for lack of evidence.
However, the Sandiganbayan denied the demurrer filed by Mrs. Arroyo.
This prompted her to file a petition before the Supreme Court (SC), which overturned the Sandiganbayan ruling and set her free in July 2016.
Valdez and Uriarte only returned to the country after four years abroad in October and November, in the aftermath of Arroyo’s legal victory.