Arroyo arraignment reset to Oct. 29By Karen Boncocan
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan reset the arraignment of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for plunder to October 29.
The First Division granted the petition by Arroyo’s lawyers despite the conditions set by the prosecution:
* That Arroyo be transferred to the Philippine National Police General Hospital at Camp Crame;
* That she shoulder her medical expenses
* That she be immediately arraigned even if it meant taking her by ambulance to the anti-graft court’s parking area where the justices can meet her.
The anti-graft court said the October 29 arraignment would be at 8:30 a.m. for both the Pampanga lawmaker and PCSO director Manuel Moranto.
Arroyo is facing charges of plunder in connection with the alleged misuse of P366 million worth of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s intelligence funds.
Aside from Arroyo, to be arraigned at the Sandiganbayan First Division are former PCSO chairman Sergio Valencia and PCSO assistant manager for finance Benigno Aguas who have earlier turned themselves in to police custody. Valencia and Aguas were brought to the anti-graft court both in handcuffs by authorities.
In a text message, Veterans Memorial Medical Center director Nona Legaspi said Arroyo’s cardiologist informed doctors from the Philippine National Police that “it would be risky for her [Arroyo] to attend without having the stress echo test.”
“She should seek for a permission to have that exam first in heart center or any hospital that has that,” she said.
Lawyer Anacleto Diaz opposed the prosecutors’ suggestion that the former President be confined at the Camp Crame hospital from VMMC, saying that its doctors were already familiar with his client’s medical condition.
He said that a cardiologist from the VMMC urged that medical tests be conducted on Arroyo at the Philippine Heart Center “to determine if she suffers from chronic heart disease.”
However, Prosecutors revealed information from their sources at the VMMC that tests done on Arroyo were negative.
Arroyo was transferred to the VMMC’s ICU due to blocked arteries last week, but has since been moved back to the government hospital’s presidential suite.
Diaz also urged the anti-graft court to give them ample time to take the case to the Supreme Court within the week. He said that they would submit a petition to the high tribunal to allow the Pampanga lawmaker to post bail even if plunder was a non-bailable offense.
Also facing plunder charges are former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte; PCSO directors Manuel Morato, Raymundo Roquero, Jose Taruc V and Maria Fatima Valdes; former Commission on Audit (COA) chairman Reynaldo Villar and COA Region V head Nilda Paras.
The Bureau of Immigration said that one of the accused, Taruc, had been able to flee the country.
Prosecutors urged the Sandiganbayan to cancel the passports of Taruc, Valdes and Uriarte. The last two, reliable sources told prosecutors, have also slipped out of the country.