Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Tuesday sought a halt to all court proceedings and her possible arrest in connection with her plunder case stemming from the alleged misuse of P366 million in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.
In an urgent motion, Arroyo’s lawyers said she would file a motion for reconsideration on the Office of the Ombudsman’s resolution ordering that she and nine others be charged with plunder, a nonbailable offense.
This is the first plunder case against Arroyo, although she is already detained for another nonbailable case, electoral sabotage, pending in the Pasay City Regional Trial Court.
Arroyo is also facing graft cases in the Sandiganbayan for her approval of the allegedly overpriced National Broadband Network deal with China’s ZTE Corp. The deal has been scrapped.
Maria Rosario del Rosario and Christian Diaz of the Diaz, Del Rosario and Associates law firm also asked that the Office of the Ombudsman be directed to furnish Arroyo with a copy of its ruling, as she had yet to receive one.
The Office of the Ombudsman claimed that from January 2008 to June 2010, the accused diverted funds from the PCSO’s operating budget to the confidential or intelligence fund, which could be withdrawn or accessed any time and with few restrictions.
The accused then allegedly converted, misused and illegally transferred the funds for their own use “in the guise of fictitious expenditures,” it said.
In the motion, the lawyers said Arroyo, now a Pampanga lawmaker, would exhaust all remedies, especially the filing of a motion for reconsideration in the Office of the Ombudsman.
They said a motion for reconsideration was an integral part of any preliminary investigation of a case. If an accused is deprived of the chance to file such a motion, the preliminary investigation is deemed incomplete.
“It is a well-settled rule that a person under preliminary investigation by the Ombudsman is entitled to file a motion for reconsideration of the adverse resolution. This right is provided for in the very Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman,” the lawyers said.
They added that the right to a preliminary investigation was a “component part of due process in criminal justice” and that it should be done before any charge is brought to court. The lawyers asked the court to suspend any further action on the plunder charge.
But even without the motion, the Sandiganbayan cannot as yet issue any ruling or warrant in connection with the case until it has been raffled to a division. The antigraft court is scheduled to raffle off the case on Friday.
Arroyo’s coaccused in the plunder case are former PCSO Chairman Sergio Valencia; former General Manager Rosario Uriarte; ex-board members Manuel Morato, Jose Taruc V, Raymundo Roquero, Ma. Fatima Valdes; and ex-budget and accounts manager Benigno Aguas.
Indicted as well were former Commission on Audit Chairman Reynaldo Villar and Nilda Plaras, erstwhile intelligence/confidential fund audit unit head.
Like Arroyo, Morato sought the suspension of proceedings in his plunder case Tuesday.
In a motion filed through his lawyers, Morato said he had yet to receive a copy of the Ombudsman resolution indicting him for plunder.
Morato’s motion said he was entitled to file a motion for reconsideration, with the court’s permission, on the adverse ruling. To deny him of this chance would violate his right to due process.
The motion was signed by Morato’s lawyer Dante Diaz.
The plunder case was filed a week before the third State of the Nation Address (Sona) of President Benigno Aquino, a constant critic of Arroyo.
Arroyo’s lawyer Anacleto Diaz on Monday said that the filing of the plunder case was timed for Sona in which Mr. Aquino would demonize Arroyo.
Malacañang said there was no politics behind the back-to-back filing of separate plunder cases against Arroyo and one of her most trusted appointees, former Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. chairman Efraim Genuino.
In a Palace briefing, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the filing of the charges was “merely incidental (and) has no relation whatsoever to the Sona on July 23.
Filed ‘long ago’
Lacierda recalled that the case against the former President was filed “long ago” in the Office of the Ombudsman.
“And we’d like to remind you that the executive branch has no control or influence over the Office of the Ombudsman and, time and again, there were certain instances or cases where the Ombudsman dismissed a case against the former President or lowered the crime charge,” Lacierda said.
The President’s spokesperson noted that graft investigators had found probable cause to warrant the filing of the charges.
In a statement, Deputy Customs Commissioner Danilo Lim said the plunder case would finally land Arroyo in jail.
“The plunder case will deliver Arroyo from her hospital detention to a regular prison. Justice will be served,” said Lim, one of the complainants in the case. With a report from Philip C. Tubeza
Originally posted: 2:54 pm | Tuesday, July 17th, 2012