Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and three others face plunder charges over alleged misuse of OWWA funds

(SPOT.ph) Former Solicitor General Frank Chavez filed plunder charges yesterday against former President and current Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, former Health Secretary Francisco Duque III and former Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Chief Virgilio Angelo.

Inquirer.net reports that Chavez accused the respondents of misusing P530 million OWWA funds from 2003 to 2004. The funds were allegedly diverted to PhilHealth, which gave away health cards with Arroyo’s image during the 2004 elections. In his complaint, Chavez said Duque recommended the diversion of the money from the OWWA Medicare Fund to PhilHealth, which Arroyo approved.

"(The) proposed transfer of hundreds of millions... was redundant if not altogether unnecessary," Inquirer.net quoted Chavez’ complaint. "Clearly, then, respondents are guilty of plunder through the first predicate crime, as the diversion of the said amount had absolutely nothing to do with the intended purposes of the OWWA fund."

Chavez also alleged that Arroyo approved the use of about $293,500 OWWA funds for preparatory activities in several countries in support of the US-led war in Iraq, reports Inquirer.net. He said the OWWA fund "is meant for the direct and exclusive benefit of OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers). Thus... approving said requests for disbursements to be drawn from the OWWA fund, respondents have clearly violated the constitution."

On ANC’s Top Story yesterday, Duque said they have a legal basis for the use of the OWWA funds, reports ABS-CBN News. He cited the National Health Insurance Program Law, which ordered the integration of the Medicare under the Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System, with the final link being OWWA.

Duque also denied that the transfer had anything to do with the 2004 presidential elections, reports ABS-CBN News. He said that in a "benign note" he gave to Arroyo, he "merely pointed out that it (the transfer) has a bearing on the 2004 elections."

Chavez also countered Duque’s statements in the same interview on Top Story. "You were using (the) money of OFWs for political purposes... Secretary Duque said it is a benign statement. It is the most malignantly benign statement. He was inciting the President to approve the transfer that will affect the campaign of the President in the elections."

For more on this story, log on to Inquirer.net and ABS-CBN News.

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