Serge Valencia learns the risks of public office
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-11-01
The sad plight of our Ateneo batch mate Sergio “Serge” Valencia - former PCSO (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office) Chairman - was the hot topic of our e-group recently. Serge is now detained in Camp Crame for having been included in the plunder charge sheet against former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA). They’re all being made to account for the alleged diversion and misuse of P366 million PCSO intelligence funds.

Classmates and batch mates would naturally sympathize with a fellow alumnus who had suffered a major setback or big blow in life. Serge was a very popular student in the campus and that would account for the intense interest our batch has in seeing him freed at the soonest possible time. Visits to the Camp Crame detention center where Serge is being held have been planned. Options on how to further help him were considered. 

The discussion somewhat took a wrong term when a batch mate - perhaps having gotten too emotional - started blaming the plight of Serge to the “oppressive” policies of the current administration of President Benigno S. Aquino III (P-Noy). To me, this view was totally baseless and uncalled for and my reaction was to respond to it - to provide our batch e-group with my two cents worth on the “oppressive” subject matter.

The PCSO case centers on the P366 million intelligence fund of the agency that were allegedly diverted and misused. With GMA leading the roster of suspects, also ordered arrested by the Sandiganbayan were former PCSO General Manager (GM) Rosario Uriarte, Former Chairman Sergio Valencia, former Board members Manuel Morato, Raymundo Roquero, Jose Taruc V, Ma. Fatima Valdes, former Commission on Audit Chairman Reynaldo Villar, COA Region V Head Nilda Plaras, and PCSO Assistant General Manager for finance, Benigno Aguas. They were charged with violating Article 217 [4] of the Revised Penal Code and Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code, Section 3 [e] of Republic Act No. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, as amended by RA 1060, and Republic Act 7080 or the Plunder Law.

During the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Hearing, whose report led to this charge against the accused persons, it was established that within the PCSO there was a direct link between GM Uriarte and GMA and it was through this Uriarte-GMA link that major operations were coursed and undertaken. The Uriarte-GMA setup made a mockery of the management system of the PCSO as it diverted and misused substantial amounts of money that intended control points, like the Board, should have prevented.

Serge Valencia might have been the unwitting victim of the operation that diverted the PCSO funds. His case reminded me of the plight of Cito Lorenzo when he was still Agriculture Secretary. Cito claimed exclusion from the Fertilizer Scam operation that was allegedly managed by Joc Joc Bolante. Be that as it may, the Justice Department will file cases based on what the evidence presents. The evidence of the PCSO fund diversion held all those in positions of power accountable for not preventing the alleged misdeed. Being in a position to prevent the fund diversion, it is then assumed that they were accountable for the misdeed.

Serge, just like Cito, will have to prove how he was kept out of the operation and therefore could not have stopped the diversion of funds. As Chairman of PCSO, Serge is accountable for the movement of such a huge P366 million intelligence fund. The Board members are accountable too. The movement of huge amounts is supposed to be cleared by the Chairman and the Board - the highest control point of the organization. Serge, like Cito, is being charged on account of command responsibility. Serge and Cito must now prove to the court just how the alleged misuse of funds in their respective agencies was undertaken without their knowledge and without their participation.

Serge should have sought guidance from his lawyers about what was going on in the PCSO. His position gives him the option to assert his authority and order it to stop. Friends and kin hope that the Court will favorably consider the assertion of having been kept out of the fund diversion operation despite the fact that he had the highest position in the organization. We, his Ateneo batch mates, can only pray and hope for the best outcome for our valued friend.

The case of Cito Lorenzo and Serge Valencia should be a wake up call for all those who sit in positions of power in any government agency. Appointed public servants in all government agencies must be true to their mandate and the trust given them by the people. Trust positions are mandated to stop any wrongdoing that would work against the public interest.

Appointed public servants should follow the example of St. Thomas More who embraced death when he opted to obey his commitment to God over that to his king - the infamous Henry VIII. Refusing to pledge allegiance to what he deemed was an unlawful edict, Thomas More said before he was beheaded at Tower Hill: “I die the king’s loyal subject, but God’s first.”

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Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

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