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Ex-PCSO exec encashed P102-M check, mum on funds' use

(Updated 3:30 p.m.) Former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) general manager Rosario Uriarte on Thursday refused to reveal where P102.5 million of the charity funds went. At the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on Thursday, Senator Franklin Drilon revealed that Uriarte encashed P102.5 million in PCSO funds from January to June 2010, which, the senator noted, was within the election period. "The Philippine National Bank... indicated that you encashed by your signature huge sums of money. May we ask where you brought this cash?" asked Drilon, who is also chairman of the Senate finance committee. Uriarte, however, chose not to speak about the matter and invoked her right against self-incrimination. Drilon also asked why there was a sudden spike in Uriarte's assets from 2007 to 2008. Based on the former PCSO official's statement of assets and liabilities and net worth (SALN), her assets in 2007 stood at P6,170,000 while her assets in 2008 jumped to P10,670,000, Drilon said. "Your SALN did not show that you borrowed money to justify your increase in your assets... so where (did) this P4,597,000 come from?" he said. Uriarte said she received P2.6 million in allowances from the PCSO, which according to her was not subject to tax so it was not indicated on her Income Tax Return (ITR). However, when Drilon asked where the P2 million balance came from, Uriarte again invoked her right against self-incrimination. She likewise refused to answer when asked about who approved PCSO's requests for intelligence funds. Uriarte earlier revealed, however, that she personally requested intelligence funds from former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who approved the requests. Senators, however, doubted the amount of the intelligence funds requested and approved by Arroyo, which amounted to P325 million from 2008 to 2010. They found suspicious the PCSO's request of P160 million in funds before the 2010 elections.
More discrepancies However, this was not the only alleged anomaly in the use of the PCSO's intelligence funds. Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos confirmed that part of PCSO's intelligence funds were used by the previous board as blood money for several overseas Filipino workers (OFW) on death row abroad. Earlier in the day, Drilon also revealed that around P116 million of the funds were supposedly used against "bomb threats, kidnapping, destablilization and terrorism" in 2009. The COA also revealed that around P54 million of the PCSO's funds were not liquidated. Drilon likewise asked why nobody could tell them how much of the PCSO's P23-billion gross sales in 2009 went to the national goverment. Lawyer Fidela Tan of COA, who was also present during the hearing, said that more than P800 million in forfeited prizes from 2007 to 2008 also remained in the hands of the PCSO as cash assets. "Per books, per record, it has not been transferred," she said. PCSO chair Margarita Quico said this is because much of the previous PCSO funds were co-mingled. "This is just one of the many things that are in disarray," she said. She noted, however, that the present board has already recommended to separate the PCSO's accounts for its prizes, charity, and operations. Full accounting Drilon and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, meanwhile, asked COA to account for the funds of PCSO. Drilon said COA shold submit a "clear" report on how much is the PCSO's prize fund, charity fund, and operating fund. "We want to know other than the charity fund, is there anything that is going to the national coffers? So we'll have a clearer picture," he said. On the other hand, Enrile said COA should go over the records of the PCSO and allocate its funds according to the charity fund's mandate and charter. "Removing the two percent and divising the 98 percent to three categories of funds and then compare it with the accounting method used where they deducted the rentals, we'll see the discrepancy," he said. — LBG/VVP/HS/RSJ, GMA News