I have been told that the text of the decision is now available. I have asked my lawyers to study the document and advise me on the matter. This statement was prepared in response to the requests of media organizations for a comment. In light of the Supreme Court’s ruling, I have several questions on my mind, a few of which I wish to share with our countrymen:
First, the law that provides the PCSO’s Charter, Republic Act No. 1169, states that the PCSO “shall be the principal government agency for raising and providing for funds for health programs, medical assistance and service, and the charities of national character….”
It also states that:
“From the gross receipts from the sale of sweepstakes tickets, whether for sweepstakes races, lotteries, or similar activities, shall be deducted the printing cost of such tickets, which in no case shall exceed two percent of such gross receipts to arrive at the net receipts. The net receipts shall be allocated as follows:
A. 55% shall be set aside as a prize fund for the payment of prizes…
B. 30% shall be set aside as contributions to the charity fund…
C. 15% shall be set aside as contributions to the operating expenses and capital expenditures of the Office.”
Might I emphasize: This is written in the actual charter of the PCSO. Nowhere does it state that the funds of the agency charged to manage sweepstakes and provide charity can be reallocated for actions related to “Bomb threat, kidnapping, destabilization and terrorism” or for “Bilateral and security relation”—purposes stated in the accomplishment report forwarded by then-PCSO General Manager Rosario Uriarte and Mr. Benigno Aguas to the Commission on Audit, to justify the transferring of additional funds from PCSO to the Office of the President, during the time of Mrs. Arroyo.
In total, 365 million pesos was released by PCSO over the course of 3 years, with 244.5 million, as stated in the report of Mr. Aguas, transferred to the Office of the President. The overwhelming bulk of the funds, at 66.9 percent, were used for activities not sanctioned by the Charter of the PCSO.
Reviewing RA 1169 and the actions approved by Mrs. Arroyo, one may wonder: Were such acts allowable under the law? To answer this question, we can actually glean the spirit of the law in the same Charter, which has penalties for those who utilize PCSO funds beyond what is enumerated. Section 8 states: “The following shall be punished by imprisonment of not less than one month and not more than three years… Any officer or employee of a hospital or other charitable or hygienic institution or organization who uses funds obtained from the Office under this Act for purposes other than those herein authorized.”
Second, in a normal corporate setting, a financial officer who does not know how to prepare a budget is either fired or, at least, demoted. Why? Because any company that is forced to source additional funds, due to incorrect budgeting, will either: 1) Lose the expected profit, precisely because a portion of it will be allocated to cover the required amount, or 2) Suddenly borrow at an interest and thus use its earnings to pay the loan. In another instance: When a company has a manager who forces the firm to incur losses or to borrow with interest, only to have what is borrowed left unused, such inept managerial practice is severely penalized.
In the case of the PCSO funds, instead of penalizing those who failed to prepare the right budget, it seems that Mrs. Arroyo actually supported and encouraged poor managerial performance, to the extent that transfers were repeatedly allowed.
An unforeseen event would perhaps make the request for additional funds understandable. However, such a practice was tolerated for 3 years, to the extent that the letters of request issued by Mrs. Uriarte to Mrs. Arroyo appeared to be very formatted.
I wonder: What kind of superior espouses such practice? How does one justify mismanagement to such a degree? With Mrs. Arroyo giving acquiescence and approval, doesn’t this make her also accountable?
Third, when we came into office, the Board that I appointed to the PCSO, in one of our earlier meetings put forward this problem: A number of hospitals did not accept PCSO promissory notes and guarantee letters, due to the long-standing arrears from the agency. Case in point: Data covering 2003 to 2010 show that 71.39 million pesos was needed for 1,920 cases that had guarantee letters. One cannot help but think: If 365 million was used for its intended purpose, how many of our countrymen could have been afforded the basic and necessary service that they deserve?
Now I ask: By ordering the release and exoneration of Mrs. Arroyo, what is the Supreme Court saying: That nothing anomalous transpired? That no crime happened? That no one should be held to account? That the funds were used properly? What is the recourse now of the Filipino people, when it is clear that a substantial amount of public funds did not go to the intended services, which would have alleviated the suffering of many of our countrymen?