Sandigan junks arrest order bid against ArroyoBy Tetch Torres
MANILA, Philippines—The Sandiganbayan First Division on Friday refused to issue an arrest order against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The anti-graft court instead ordered the Office of the Ombudsman to further investigate the plunder case, a non-bailable offense, it filed against Arroyo.
Arroyo’s critics were pinning their hopes on the Sandiganbayan order to quickly send her back to jail. After eight months of hospital detention for a separate case of electoral fraud, Arroyo, now a member of the House of Representatives, was released Wednesday on a P1-million bail granted by a Pasay court, saying the evidence presented by the prosecutors was not strong enough to deny bail.
In his ruling Wednesday, Judge Jesus Mupas said the only evidence presented by prosecutors that would link Arroyo to alleged vote-rigging in the 2007 elections was a testimony by a witness whose credibility was in doubt.
In a six-page resolution, the special anti-graft court granted the motion filed by Arroyo to suspend the proceedings in the plunder case while the resolution of her appeal with the Office of the Ombudsman is being heard.
“The Ombudsman is hereby ordered to resolve the said motions with dispatch,” the anti-graft court said.
Arroyo’s lawyers filed motions before the Ombudsman alleging that the rights of the former president would be violated if an arrest order would be issued while an appeal remained pending before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Government prosecutors filed plunder charges last week against Arroyo and nine other former officials for alleged misuse of P365 million pesos in state lottery funds.
Arroyo’s spokeswoman, Elena Bautista-Horn, in a phone interview said the Sandiganbayan decision was a welcome development.
“We are thankful to God, to all who pray for her, and that the judicial system is alive in our country. We will continue to follow the court what its decision will be and we hope the other party would also do the same,” Horn said. With reports from Associated Press; Ian Esguerra, Philippine Daily Inquirer
Originally posted at 4:58 p.m.