Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Palace retrieves postdated checks

MALACAÑANG has gotten back from the Department of Education three postdated checks, each worth P5 million, the Office of the President recently issued for the high school scholarship program of Zambales Rep. Antonio M. Diaz.

Education Undersecretary for Finance Juan Miguel Luz said in a phone interview before he left on an overseas trip that the Presidential Management Staff picked up the checks last Friday after DepEd refused to act on these since their transmittal in late August.

He confirmed PCIJ’s report that the department would not sign the receipt for the checks because, he said, "postdated checks are not allowed in government transactions."

The checks came from the President’s Social Fund and were believed tied to Palace maneuvers to trash the impeachment complaint against President Arroyo.

Diaz, a member of the Liberal Party that earlier called for Arroyo’s resignation, was among the 158 congressmen who voted last Sept. 6 to approve the House justice committee report junking the complaint.

Luz also said DepEd is preparing a voucher to return to the Palace P5 million covered by a current-dated check also issued by the President’s Social Fund for Diaz’ scholars. The department had earlier deposited the check to its trust fund while it decided what to do, he said.

Diaz, who was not named as the check’s payee, had asked DepEd to transfer the money to him so he could release it to his scholars.

The education undersecretary said DepEd was uncertain how to make the Zambales congressman account for the fund under this arrangement.

DepEd was named payee in all four checks, which are intended for Diaz’s project.

At Malacañang, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye issued the following statement on PCIJ’s report:

The Presidential Social Fund is disbursed under strict rules, officially audited and applied to specific purposes for the public good.

This report linking disbursements of the PSF to the impeachment is wrong, misplaced and unfair.

These matters are open to public scrutiny and if there are violations of law based on evidence, they will be prosecuted.

Truth and moral sense, not bribes, are what enlightened the great number of our lawmakers into voting against the impeachment complaint.

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