In a Resolution released yesterday, Jan. 10, the Panel of Prosecutors from the National Prosecution Service (NPS) of the Department of Justice (DOJ) found probable cause to recommend the filing of criminal charges for malversation under Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code, more commonly known as "technical malversation," against Former President GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO, former Executive Secretary and Foreign Affairs Secretary ALBERTO G. ROMULO, former Administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) VIRGILIO R. ANGELO, and former President and Chief Executive Officer of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation FRANCISCO T. DUQUE III.
The charges arose from the case filed by Atty. Francisco I. Chavez against said four (4) respondents and several others for having "purposely and systematically orchestrated the diversion and/or misuse of the OWWA Fund" to uses other than those that directly and exclusively contribute to the benefit of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
Specifically, former President Macapagal-Arroyo, Romulo and Angelo are being charged for the release of the amount of Two Hundred Ninety-Three Thousand Five Hundred United States Dollars ($293,500.00) from the OWWA funds that were used to finance the preparatory activities, purchase of vehicles and stockpiling of Philippine posts in the Middle East in support of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. The Panel of Prosecutors found, among others, that "[t]here was ... no clear justification as to why the OWWA funds and not the funds from the other government agencies such as the Department of Foreign Affairs was not tapped and released." The proposal and approval of the immediate transfer and release of said amount from the OWWA funds, for
which no legal basis was given, appeared to have resulted in evident prejudice to the OFWs when respondent Angelo "started implementing the same by shelving the General Financial Assistance Program of OWWA and stopping the processing of OFWs' claims under said Program." The unprocessed and unpaid claims are alleged to amount to P16,S10,900, which is roughly equivalent to the amount in dollars unla",rfullyproposed and approved to be sourced from OWWA funds.
Former President Macapagal-Arroyo and Romulo are likewise being charged for technical malversation, along with respondent Duque, for the unlawful transfer of the medicare fund of OWWAto the PHIC in the total amount of PS30,382,446. The transfer was proposed by respondent Duque, as then President and CEO of the PHIC, in a Memorandum to the former President, citing the "significant bearing on 2004 elections" and the "far reaching political implications" of the proposed transfer, as it will "provide health insurance to 8 million indigents by the end of 2003," a purpose which is not directly and exclusively for the benefit and welfare of OFWs. Respondent Macapagal-Arroyo immediately signed Executive Order No. 182, dated 14
February 2003, ordering the transfer ofOWWAfunds to PHIC.
Although respondent Duque attempted to "withdraw" his proposal by requesting the withdrawal of the E.O., on the grounds of non-publication and non-consultation of the concerned migrant workers groups after the latter protested the transfer, the OWWA Board of Trustees had already approved the transfer. In the Panel's view, respondent Duque's attempt to withdraw his proposal "was merely an afterthought, and would not negate his criminal liability."
For their part, the Board of Trustees for OWWA were recommended not to be charged, as there was "no sufficient evidence to establish their complicity in the technical malversation," considering that they appeared to have merely acted in good faith in complying with the E.O. issued by respondent Macapagal-Arroyo.
The Resolution and the entire records of the case are to be forwarded to the Office of the Ombudsman for its review, approval and/or appropriate action. Furthermore, in the case of respondent Duque, who is the incumbent Chairman of the Civil Service Commission, an impeachable officer, if the Office of the Ombudsman finds probable cause to charge him, the case would have to be for an impeachable offense to be initiated through impeachment proceedings before the House of Representatives, pursuant to Article XI of the 1987 Constitution.