Baldoz: I will cooperate in plunder probe

Posted at 04/28/11 12:56 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said on Wednesday she will cooperate in the investigation of a plunder compliant filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and 3 other officials due to alleged misuse of funds of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

Former Solicitor General Frank Chavez is poised to include Baldoz in the complaint, which stemmed from alleged misuse of some half a billion pesos of OWWA funds.

"I will cooperate in the investigation," Baldoz said in a text message to ABS-CBN News.

Baldoz's possible inclusion in the complaint came after Chavez said a primary evidence in the complaint shows that one of the signatories in the OWWA board resolution allowing the transfer of the funds to Philhealth is Baldoz.

Baldoz was chairman of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration at the time of the transaction.

Chavez said Baldoz and then-OWWA Board Chairman and concurrent Labor Secretary Patricia Santo Tomas, who is also one of the signatories, will be asked to explain their possible involvement in the fund diversion. If warranted, they will be included in the plunder complaint.

'Charge to OWWA'

Chavez showed reporters Arroyo's marginal notes in documents authorizing the transfer of money from OWWA.

“Kitang kita sa marginal notes niya 'OK, charge to OWWA' Ok from OWWA in response to the memorandum submitted by then Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo," he said.

One of the documents is a March 12, 2003 memo from then Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo requesting the approval of US$193, 500 for the diplomatic posts in Lebanon, Jordan, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt and Iran. The money is supposed to cover vehicles and stockpiling amid the US-Iraq War.

Romulo then quotes the same marginal note in a March 15, 2003 instruction letter to then OWWA Administrator Virgilio Angelo.

Chavez also showed a May 5, 2003 memo with a marginal note from Arroyo giving the OK to release P5 million in funds from OWWA for a task force on humanitarian aid to Iraq.

That same marginal note is also quoted by then Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Joaquin Lagonera in a memo letter to Angelo.

Chavez showed OWWA Board Resolution 005, transferring P530, 302, 446 from the OWWA Medicare Fund to Philhealth.

The resolution was signed by Santo Tomas and and Baldoz.

Nothing wrong with case

Meanwhile, a legal expert said there is nothing wrong in the filing of the case at the Department of Justice (DOJ) instead of at the Office of the Ombudsman.

"Especially if the Ombudsman is not doing its job, saan tatakbo ang tao?" Dean Amado Valdez of the University of the East Law School said.

Valdez said that regardless of the intention - particularly if it is part of the offensive against the Arroyo administration - the evidence will be the key.

"Regardless of the intention, kailangan may managot dito," he said.

This OWWA scandal is the 2nd plunder complaint against Arroyo after she lost her presidential immunity on June 30, 2010.

Another private citizen filed the 1st plunder complaint October last year—involving the non-remittance of over P70 million of documentary stamp taxes for the privatization of the Bacolod-Silay International Airport in Iloilo province. That case, filed with the DOJ, is due for resolution. With reports from Chiara Zambrano and RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News