Sandiganbayan defers plunder trial vs Arroyo-A A +A
By Max Sangil
Friday, July 27, 2012
MANILA (Updated) -- The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan granted Friday former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s motion to defer proceedings against her in relation to her plunder case filed by the Ombudsman last week.
The Ombudsman earlier asked the anti-graft court to issue an arrest warrant for Arroyo and nine others who were charged over alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) intelligence funds.
The case stemmed from two separate complaints -- one filed by Jaime Regalario, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and Danilo Lim on July 25, 2011 for plunder, malversation and violation of Republic Act (RA) 3019, or the "Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act;" and the other complaint dated November 29, 2011, filed by the PCSO itself represented by Eduardo Araullo, for plunder and violation of RA 3019 -- for the respondents' acts of purportedly amassing millions of pesos by diverting funds sourced from the Confidential/Intelligence Funds during the latter years of the Arroyo administration.
Also named respondents are former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte; former PCSO board chairperson Sergio Valencia; former PCSO board members Manuel Morato, Jose Taruc, Raymundo Roquero and Ma. Fatima Valdes; and former PCSO budget officer Benigno Aguas.
Former Commission on Audit (COA) chairperson Reynaldo Villar and former COA intelligence officer Milda Plara were also named in the charge sheet.
Arroyo, however, has pending motion for reconsideration before the Ombudsman.
With this, the Sandiganbayan said the Ombudsman still has to respond to Arroyo’s motion for reconsideration, stressing “the filing of a motion for consideration is an integral part of the preliminary investigation proper.”
“There is no dispute that the information was filed without first affording accused his right to file a motion for reconsideration,” the Sandiganbayan said, quoting a Supreme Court jurisprudence.
The Office of the Ombudsman filed the charges last July 16. The Arroyo camp said, however, that it only received a copy of the plunder complaint on July 20.
The Sandiganbayan First Division then issued a hold departure order against Arroyo and her co-accused in the plunder charge.
Arroyo, however, is currently out on provisional liberty after she posted a P1-million bail in a separate electoral sabotage case. Arroyo had been a detainee of the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) since November 2011 until her release on Wednesday.
Arroyo visited her constituents in Pampanga Friday afternoon after having a physical therapy session at the VMMC. She earlier experienced a "shooting pain in her leg."
President Benigno Aquino III earlier expressed dismay over Arroyo’s release and warned her that she is not a free person yet, since she has to face a non-bailable charge of plunder before the Sandiganbayan.
Aquino said, however, that he respects the decision of Pasay City RTC Branch 112 Judge Jesus Mupas finding no corroborative evidence to pin down Arroyo for poll fraud.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Department of Justice vowed to work closely together in handling the case.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said it is important to realize that Arroyo has not yet been cleared of the case and that the poll body remains determined to make her accountable of her supposed crimes.
The Comelec filed Thursday a motion for consideration on the Pasay court decision granting Arroyo’s request to post bail. (Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)