THE Sandiganbayan yesterday acquitted former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) general manager Rosario Uriarte, and former PCSO Board directors Jose R. Taruc V and Fatima A.S. Valdez of charges of graft and violation of Section 7 (d) of RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
The anti-graft court’s Sixth Division said the three were able to effectively rebut the prosecution’s evidence on allegations that they unlawfully accepted an all-expense paid trip abroad from a private contractor.
Based on the information filed in 2017, the Office of the Ombudsman accused them of going on a junket to Australia in February 2010 allegedly as a gift paid for by TMA Group of Companies which has a transaction with the PCSO.
Prosecutors said at the time the firm had just entered into a Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) with the PCSO for the establishment of a thermal coating and printing plant in the Philippines.
By nature of their official functions in the state-owned lottery firm, the prosecution said the three accused were in position to intervene in the transaction with TMA Group.
All three defendants challenged the prosecution’s evidence, noting that the witnesses called to testify were merely records custodians did not have personal knowledge about the documentary evidence.
The defense argued that the trip to Australia happened after the JVA had already been approved hence there is no basis to say that approval or denial can be affected by intervention on their part.
All three were also previously named co-accused in a P366 million plunder case against former President Gloria Arroyo. They were likewise acquitted in the said case after the Supreme Court ordered the case dismissed for lack of basis.