Sandiganbayan junks Arroyo plea; arrest order stays

MANILA (Updated 3:20 a.m.) -- The Sandiganbayan denied Thursday the motion for reconsideration filed by the lawyer of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo seeking to reverse the court's resolution, which found probable cause against his client and her co-accused.

The court on October 3 issued a resolution, which found probable cause against Arroyo and her fellow accused in the alleged misuse of P336 million Philippine Charity Sweepstakes (PCSO) funds and ordered the issuance of warrants of arrest against them.

Lawyer Anacleto Diaz, Arroyo's counsel, then made an oral motion for reconsideration on the court's resolution.

"After evaluating the oral arguments raised by the parties, as well as the documents submitted by Attorney Diaz in support of his aforesaid motion, the court sees no cogent reason to modify or disturb it aforesaid resolution," the court said in resolution.

The resolution denying Diaz's motion was signed by Associate Justice Efren dela Cruz, Rodolfo Ponferrada and Rafael Lagos.

The arrest warrant against Arroyo was issued a day after the Pampanga lawmaker formalized her reelection bid as member of the House of Representatives.

Arroyo is out on provisional liberty after a Pasay City court allowed her to post bail in connection with a separate electoral sabotage case.

In a hearing Thursday morning, Diaz asked the court to reconsider the issuance of the arrest warrant, citing that the complainants have no direct knowledge over the PCSO intelligence funds.

The case stemmed from a plunder complaint filed by private complainants Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and Danilo Lim in July 2011.

"I was forced to give an oral motion for reconsideration para lang wag issuehan kami ng arrest warrant," Arroyo's Diaz said in an interview.

Diaz claimed that the anti-graft court granted his motion to put the arrest warrant on hold.

Aside from Arroyo, nine other former officials were charged in the alleged PCSO fund mess.

Also named respondents to the case 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 chairperson Reynaldo Villar and former COA intelligence officer Milda Plara were also named in the charge sheet.

House Deputy Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, an ally of Arroyo, found the issuance of the warrant "unusual."

"Ewan ko ba. Awang-awa na ko sa tao, may sakit na nga eh," he said in a phone interview.

For his part, Senator Teofisto Guingona III asked the Sandiganbayan to issue a hold departure order on Arroyo, who tried to leave the country last year.

"It has been proven in several occasions that Mrs. Arroyo has a penchant to invent reasons to justify her grand plan to leave the country and escape prosecution for her crimes," the senator said.

He said the release of arrest warrant against Arroyo only proves that the evidence presented in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Report on the PCSO fund scam are "strong, concrete and sufficient."

"We must remember that Mrs. Arroyo has never denied her participation in the approval of huge amounts of money on this case. Her marginal notes of approval are on record, clearly affirmed and testified to by Rosario Uriarte, former General Manager of the PCSO," Guingona said. (Kathrina Alvarez/With Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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