Court enters not guilty plea for Arroyo on plunder-A A +A
Monday, October 29, 2012
MANILA (Updated 10:20 a.m.) -- Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has decided not to enter any plea on plunder charges in connection with the alleged misuse of funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
Before a packed courtroom of Sandiganbayan’s first division, Arroyo lawyer Anacleto Diaz said Monday they will wait for the decision of the Supreme Court regarding their request to further stop the hearings of the case due to lack of merit.
As a result, the Court entered a not guilty plea on behalf of Arroyo while the preliminary conference has been set on December 3, 2012 and pre-trial on February 14, 2013.
"Under the rules, a no plea is equivalent to entering a not guilty plea. We did not expect that," lead prosecutor Diosdado Calonge told reporters.
Arroyo, who arrived an hour before the 8:30 a.m.arraignment, was accompanied by her family led by husband Jose Miguel Arroyo and children Ang Galing party-list Representative Juan Miguel Arroyo, Camarines Sur Representative Dato Arroyo and Luli Arroyo.
Showing their support for Arroyo as well were members of the Karapatan Youth Movement, who lined up outside the court's premises.
After the arraignment, a white shuttle brought Arroyo back to her detention suite at the Veteran’s Memorial Medical Center (VMMC), less than 30 minutes away from the Sandiganbayan in Quezon City.
Security was tight inside and outside the anti-graft court as bomb disposal units of the Philippine National Police (PNP) were stationed while some policemen were tasked to secure the route between the VMMC and the court.
Arroyo’s close-in security meanwhile was provided by the PNP Police Security and Protection Group.
The Pampanga lawmaker has since denied the charge that she benefitted from the misuse of some P366 million worth of PCSO intelligence funds from 2008 leading to the presidential elections in 2010.
In her petition for temporary restraining order (TRO) SC last week, Arroyo said the Office of the Ombudsman, which filed the case, failed to establish that she received a single centavo of the encashed checks.
Her lawyers said Arroyo’s involvement was only limited to the approval of the funds, which was intended for tracking down people or organizations behind illegal gambling games (jueteng) under the guise of small town lottery and sweepstakes scams.
Arroyo should have entered her plea last October 15 but it was reset to Monday after she was found suffering from coronary ischemia. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)