SC issues injunction for Arroyo's co-accused-A A +A
Monday, October 29, 2012
MANILA (3rd Update, 5:38 p.m.) -- The Supreme Court created a confusion on Monday after it announced that the justices have approved the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) that would have indefinitely stop the hearings of the plunder case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan proceeded with the arraignment earlier in the day as Arroyo refused to enter any plea on the case involving the alleged misuse of P366-million worth of intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
It turned out, however, that the TRO covered the arrest order issued by the Sandiganbayan against an employee of the Commission on Audit who is also a co-accused of Arroyo in the case.
In a resolution dated October 24, 2012, the SC's Third Division stopped the anti-graft court from implementing its October 3 resolution insofar as petitioner Nilda Plaras, intelligence unit head of COA, is concerned.
"The Court, without necessarily giving due course thereto, resolves to require respondents to comment thereon (not to file a motion to dismiss) within ten days from notice and to issue a TRO, as prayed for, enjoining the Sandiganbayan from implementing its assailed Resolution dated 03 October 2012 which directed the issuance of warrant of arrest against petitioner, among others, effective immediately and continuing until further orders from the Court," the SC’s Third Division stated through Division clerk of court Lucita Abjelina-Soriano.
The High Court likewise directed respondent Sandiganbayan and Ombudsman to file their respective comments on the Plaras petition within 10 days.
The SC’s issuance of the TRO has been swirling since last week following the filing of a similar petition by Arroyo’s lawyer to stop Monday’s arraignment at the Sandiganbayan.
A copy of the resolution on Plaras’ case only surfaced after SC acting spokesperson Gleo Guerra announced Monday morning that the TRO also covered the former President, who was then being arraigned at the anti-graft court.
“SC PIO will furnish the media as well as upload today a copy of the SC TRO on former President GMA’s arraignment before the Sandiganbayan on PCSO/plunder case,” Guerra texted reporters.
However, after a few hours, Guerra had to issue a correction, saying the TRO only covered the petitioner Plaras, and not Arroyo and the other accused in the plunder case. Arroyo has been on hospital arrest since the plunder case was transmitted by the Ombudsman to the Sandiganbayan early this month.
Guerra was forced to recant her initial statement after some justices allegedly sought clarification.
She said that the confusion may have been caused by the “miswording” in the SC resolution, particularly the “among others” clause since it gave the impression that the TRO should have covered all those in the October 3 resolution, including Arroyo.
Prior to the mistake, the spokesperson of former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo thanked the SC for issuing a TRO that reportedly affirmed their suspicion that the case is nothing but harassment by the Aquino administration.
“Rather, the charges should be examined in the cold light of day, in sobriety and in an atmosphere of judicious deliberation, without heat and undue haste. This is what the TRO affords us all, and for that we are grateful,” lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said.
But the media and court observers blamed the policy of “dignified silence” being imposed by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who had practically suppressed all media briefings, press conferences and interviews in matters pertaining to the court and its decisions, saying this policy of silence digresses from her vow of transparency and even leads to disorder.
Sereno, in defending her stance of “dignity of silence,” said that it is time that justices must be read through their opinions and decisions, instead of through public interviews by the media, apparently to take a swipe at her predecessor, former Chief Justice Renato Corona, who had taken to media blitz at the height of his impeachment trial.
On October 24, Arroyo’s lawyers filed a petition asking the SC to stop the Sandiganbayan from proceeding with her plunder case arising from her alleged misuse of some P366-million confidential intelligence funds of the PCSO in 2008 leading to the 2010 elections.
The plunder charges stemmed from the recommendation of the Senate
Blue Ribbon Committee against Arroyo and former PCSO general manager
Rosario Uriarte for the disbursement of the agency’s special funds primarily intended for basic social services but was instead diverted to finance intelligence operations of the military.
Lawyers insisted that Arroyo’s participation in the allocation of the funds was limited to merely approving it. They also pointed out that the complainants did not have personal knowledge of the allegations stated in the complaint, a requirement under the Rules of Court.