The Pasay Regional Trial Court has agreed to the request of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to be arraigned separately from former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and provincial election supervisor Lintang Bedol, her two coaccused in the electoral sabotage case filed by the Commission on Elections.
Arroyo’s lawyer, Ray Montri Santos, told reporters that the former president and now Pampanga representative requested that she be arraigned ahead of the two, citing the strain of postponements on her physical condition as well as on her security preparations.
The arraignment was scheduled for Feb. 20 but Judge Jesus Mupas reset it for March 19 after Ampatuan and Bedol sought its deferment to give them more time to comment on various pleadings.
Arroyo, currently detained at the Veteran’s Memorial hospital in Quezon City, is suffering from a degenerative bone disease.
Ampatuan Sr. is currently detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City for another case —allegedly masterminding the Maguindanao massacre of more than 57 people in 2009.
Bedol is being detained at Camp Crame, Quezon City.
The Commission on Elections charged Arroyo, Ampatuan Sr. and Bedol of electoral sabotage for allegedly rigging the results in the 2007 senatorial elections in Maguindanao to give candidates of the then Arroyo administration a significant lead.
Court spokesperson Felda Domingo said Mupas granted Arroyo’s request, but he has yet to schedule a new arraignment date for her.
Arroyo’s lawyer had pleaded for the holding of the arraignment on Monday as scheduled.
“[The accused] has to prepare mentally for that. If it gets deferred again, it will be hard for her because she will have to build her strength up to prepare for another date,” Santos said.
Santos also argued that the arraignment of the former president on the same day as her two coaccused “could present risks on the former president’s security and her health as well.” He described his client’s condition as still “sensitive.”
Commenting on Arroyo’s request, the head of the Comelec law department, Esmeralda Ladra, said the prosecution was merely being pragmatic when it proposed arraigning all the accused in one day, taking into account logistics preparations.
She said the prosecution “did not want to add stress” to the former president, but “with regard to security, we think it would be practical for the transfer [of the three accused] to be done once.”
The court spokesperson said the arraignment would “likely be scheduled soon,” explaining that security measures would first be laid out before the court decided on the date.
She added it was highly unlikely that Arroyo’s arraignment would push through on Monday.