Philippine ex-president accused of $12.8M plunder

A complaint filed Tuesday alleges former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo plundered an overseas workers’ fund to boost her 2004 election campaign.

The complaint claims Arroyo ordered about 530 million pesos ($12.3 million) diverted from the fund to pay for health cards with her image on them distributed during the campaign.

About 9 million Filipinos work abroad due to a lack of employment at home, and their contributions to the trust fund pay for repatriation during emergencies, medical care and other needs unique to overseas workers.

The complaint alleges their money was misused when part of the trust fund was allegedly diverted to pay for health cards, which are available to all Filipinos to pay for hospital care.

Arroyo has long denied wrongdoing but continues to be dogged by allegations of corruption and misrule in her nine-year presidency. She stepped down last June and now serves in the House of Representatives.

The complaint filed by lawyer Frank Chavez, a former solicitor general, was received by the Justice Department, which will determine if there is enough evidence for an indictment.

Chavez’s complaint also alleges three government officials conspired with Arroyo to divert the money. He also claimed she diverted 21.5 million pesos ($494,000) to pay for diplomatic vehicles in the Middle East in support of the US-led war in Iraq and “humanitarian assistance” to Filipinos in Iraq in 2003.

The Justice Department is still reviewing a previous plunder complaint that Arroyo ordered the sale of prime government property to a private developer but did not remit 72 million ($1.7 million) in capital gains tax.

Under the law, currently serving or former state employees who amass at least 50 million pesos ($1.15 million) in ill-gotten wealth through criminal acts could be charged with plunder.