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Malacañang scraps PCSO intelligence fund

Use of all intelligence funds now requires liquidation
Budget Secretary Abad with President Benigno Aquino III
Budget Secretary Abad with President Benigno Aquino III

MANILA, Philippines (July 10, 2011) - The Palace has decided that the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) shall no longer be entitled to intelligence fund.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said yesterday that agencies, including the PCSO,that have nothing to do with government intelligence work shall not anymore receive allocation for intelligence fund.

And one thing more - use of all intelligence funds now requires liquidation.

Abad stressed that these are among the reforms that President Aquino likes to see implemented.

The budget secretary did not specify that these changes are being made as a swift reaction to the revelation by former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte that in a span of three years P325 million from a line item in the PCSO budget was converted to intelligence fund, which is not subject to audit.

The realigned amount was on top of the regular P60 million yearly allocation for intelligence fund in PCOS's corporate budget.

Uriarte testified in a Senate hearing on Thursday that Arroyo, now a Pampanga congresswoman, allowed the release of the funds to finance intelligence operations against illegal gambling in the countryside to protect small town lottery (STL) projects of the PCSO, blood money for some convicted overseas Filipino workers and some calamity relief operations.

After the Senate hearing, Senators Franklin Drilon and Juan Ponce-Enrile were one in saying that Uriarte was lying under oath about the real objects of expenditure of the multi-million peso releases.

Senators believed the funds were misused because Uriarte could not the describe the nature of the intelligence projects in detail as well as who were conducting them. Uriarte said she was directly working with Arroyo on the release of intelligence funds.

“I do not believe what Uriarte said. I believe that the funds were used for purposes other than... indicated because for two straight years the purpose, manner of withdrawals and method of securing the authority (to realign funds) were the same. The same activity for two years so it is very hard to believe that what they did was aboveboard,” Drilon said.

Drilon said Uriarte’s testimony was full of inconsistencies, including her claim that P60 million in intelligence funds were part of the PCSO’s corporate operating budget and yet they did not spend the amount and instead “asked for another authority for P150 million.”

“It was so unusual and not consistent with standard corporate practices,” said Drilon, who once served as justice secretary.

On the possibility of Uriarte becoming a state witness to pin down the former president, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said it is too early to tell because the Senate probe has just begun and it would be up to the Department of Justice (DOJ) to explore that option and determine Uriarte's liabilities.

“There are certain requirements before one can be considered as a state witness. On the top of my head, what I remember is one, the person has to be the least guilty and second, there should be no direct evidence to prove the case other than the testimony of the person who is proposed to be a state witness,” Valte said. (From, Vox Bikol)