Arroyo asks SC to stop Sandiganbayan from hearing PCSO plunder case
(Updated 3:48 p.m.) Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to stop the Sandiganbayan from hearing a plunder case against her stemming from the alleged diversion of over P300M belonging to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, a government corporation.
In an 80-page petition for certiorari and prohibition, the Arroyo camp also requested the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a writ of preliminary injunction.
Named respondents in the case were the anti-graft court's First Division, as well as the Office of the Ombudsman, which filed the plunder case with the Sandiganbayan last July.
The complaint was filed with the Ombudsman by Jaime Regalario, Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and former Army general Danilo Lim on July 26, 2011.
In the petition, Mrs. Arroyo accused the Sandiganbayan of grave abuse of discretion when it "acted with precipitate haste" by issuing two resolutions (October 3 and 4), both denying her motion for judicial determination of probable cause.
"The Sandiganbayan failed to perform its duty of personally evaluating the evidence on record in determining the existence of probable cause. Instead of painstakingly examining the evidence presented by the parties, particularly those of the complainants, it merely adopted without citing any reasons or basis whatsoever, the findings of the Ombudsman in the latter's assailed resolution," the petition read.
Malacañang, meanwhile, refused to comment on Arroyo's motion, saying it is leaving the decision with the Supreme Court.
“It’s a matter for the Supreme Court to decide whether there is a valid cause for the former President to state so. We leave it with the Supreme Court,” said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda at a press briefing.
The Arroyo camp argued that the complainants in the plunder case did not have personal knowledge of the allegations contained in their complaint filed in July 2011, which is "required under the Rules of Court and settled jurisprudence."
Mrs. Arroyo insisted that the statement of her co-accused Rosario Uriarte during the Senate blue ribbon committee hearings on the controversy cannot be used as evidence.
"Moreover, even the cited testimony of Uriarte, which she herself sought to suppress and did not affirm in her Counter-Affidavit, does not prove that petitioner GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) committed Plunder or conspired with others to do so," the petition read.
Mrs. Arroyo said the disbursement vouchers attached to the plunder complaint showed she did not participate in the anomalous transactions, and that her participation was limited to her approval of requests for additional Confidential/Intelligence Funds (CIF).
"Thus, in view of the highly personal nature of criminal responsibility, the failure of the complainants a quo to allege, more so prove, that petitioner GMA performed some particular overt act which is in violation of law, should result in the dismissal of the present criminal charge against her," she said.
The former president claimed the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan's rulings related to the case "showed undertones of political harassment."
She said the evidence adduced failed to establish elements of plunder. The Arroyo camp argued that if the complaint against former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita for also approving similar CIFs was dismissed, so should the complaint against her.
Mrs. Arroyo requested that "immediately upon receipt hereof, a TRO or a writ of preliminary injunction be issued restraining and enjoining the respondent Ombudsman from prosecuting the case and the respondent Sandiganbayan from proceeding with the case and from continuing the arrest and resulting detention of petitioner Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo," the petition read.
The high court is currently led by President Benigno Aquino III's appointee Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno but is still dominated in numbers by 11 Arroyo appointees.
Mrs. Arroyo’s co-accused are PCSO Board of Directors chairman Sergio O. Valencia, former PCSO general manager Rosario C. Uriarte, PCSO directors Manuel L. Morato, Jose R. Taruc V, Raymundo T. Roquero, and Ma. Fatima A. S. Valdes; PCSO budget officer Benigno B. Aguas, former Commission on Audit chairman Reynaldo A. Villar, and former COA-Intelligence Fund Unit head Nilda B. Plaras.
The Sandiganbayan had recently allowed Mrs. Arroyo, who continues to suffer from spine problems, to remain under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center under the following conditions:
- Mrs. Arroyo will remain at the VMMC until further order of the court;
- the Philippine National Police (PNP) shall have full control over visitors;
- Mrs. Arroyo will only have access to phones by authority of the Police Security and Protection Group (PSPG);
- no media interviews without clearance, and
- all expenses of confinement and medication will be paid by the accused.
Mrs. Arroyo, who now represents Pampanga's second legislative district, has been confined at the VMMC since October 4.
On that day, the police served a warrant for her arrest issued by the graft court for plunder for alleged irregularities at the PCSO.
The former Philippine leader is suffering from a bone mineral disorder and underwent a series of operations to treat her condition last year.
Despite her condition, she is seeking re-election in next year's midterm polls.
Three months ago, the Pasay Regional Trial Court Branch 112 allowed Mrs. Arroyo to post bail for separate electoral sabotage charges filed against her by the Commission on Elections. — with Patricia Denise Chiu/RSJ/LBG/KBK, GMA News