Metro Manila, Philippines — The group suing former president and incumbent Pampanga 2nd district Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo over an alleged misuse of the Malampaya fund almost one-and-a-half decades ago said it has built a solid case against the lawmaker.
Pete Ilagan, president of consumer group National Association of Electricity Consumers for Reforms Inc. (NASECORE), said in an interview on Monday that the complaint may appear like it’s resurrecting old arguments from a 2013 case that was dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman, but this fresh pleading involves a bigger sum – ₱38.807 billion in royalties – that was not tackled in the 2013 graft case which covered only ₱900 million.
Central to the argument was whether or not that multi-billion Malampaya fund was used as mandated by the law that created it.
Ilagan argued that Arroyo, during her term as Philippine president, disbursed the Malampaya fund for projects other than those related to energy exploration and ensuring energy security.
His basis was a 2017 Commission on Audit (COA) report which found that, between 2002 and 2013, the Malampaya fund received over ₱173.280 billion in royalties, of which ₱38.807 billion was disbursed upon Arroyo’s order.
“When this was filed by the NBI in 2013, a month later, the Supreme Court decision came out explaining that the President cannot abuse the phrase in Presidential Decree 19 which says ‘for any other reason as maybe directed by the President’ because it is too encompassing,” Ilagan said.
Asked why the group is filing the charges just now using as basis a six-year-old document, Ilagan said they requested for a copy of the 2017 COA report earlier but it was made available to them just this year.
The time lag should not weaken the case, he added, pointing out that Arroyo should be held accountable.
“The COA audit report came out only in 2017 and we were able to obtain a copy of that only this year. And we did a lot of research on that and based on the recommendation of our volunteer lawyers, we have a good case. We have a good case on this issue,” Ilagan said.
Asked whether they also pleaded that the funds that were allegedly diverted be recovered, Ilagan said it will be the Ombudsman’s call.
“It’s up to the Ombudsman now. The Ombudsman knows better. Ang importanteng message natin is kung ang ordinaryong tao na nagkakamali, nape-penalize, how much more for the highest executive position given to a public servant? Dapat maging model siya,” he added.
[Translation: It’s up to the Ombudsman now. The Ombudsman knows better. The important thing is if an ordinary person who did something wrong is penalized, how much more for the highest executive position given to a public servant? They should be the model.]
CNN Philippines reached out to the camp of Arroyo but has yet to receive a response.