Mon. Mar 8th, 2021

MANILA – The Sandiganbayan anti-graft court has cleared former officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) of graft after being accused of receiving all-expense paid trips to Australia from a firm seeking a PHP42 billion joint venture agreement (JVA) with the agency.

Cleared in the 39-page decision dated February 20 through Associate Justice Kevin Narce B. Vivero were former PCSO general manager and vice chairman Rosario C. Uriarte, and former Board of Directors members Jose R. Taruc V, and Fatima AS Valdes.

The anti-graft court said the prosecution “failed to prove that the trip to Australia was a gift from TMA Australia” in 2010 at the time PCSO and TMA entered into a JVA for the establishment of a thermal coating and printing plant in the country.

The complaint was originally filed in 2011 by then PCSO general manager Jose Ferdinand Rojas against Uriarte and the board members, as well as Anthony Karam, then the managing director of the TMA Group of Companies, and Cathering L. Fong and Ofelia Cajigal in their capacities as local representatives of TMA Group of Companies for violation of the Government Procurement Act.

On September 22, 2016, then Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales dismissed the charges against Karam, Fong, and Cajigal citing the absence of sufficient evidence that they conspired with public respondents.

“Clearly, the testimonies are pure speculation and conjecture that accused Uriarte, Taruc, and Valdes received a gift in the form of an all-expense paid trip to Australia. As already extensively discussed, there is no iota of proof that the same was a gift and not part of accused’s duty to conduct due diligence,” the court said.

Associate Justices Sarah Jane T. Fernandez and Karl B. Miranda concurred. (PNA)

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