Hospitalized Arroyo, Morato get arraignment breakBy Cynthia D. Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Sandiganbayan on Monday deferred the arraignment of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) director Manuel Morato for plunder because of their medical conditions.
The two are among the accused in the alleged embezzlement of P366 million in PCSO intelligence funds.
Arroyo’s chief legal counsel, lawyer Anacleto Diaz, informed the antigraft court’s First Division that Arroyo’s attending physicians at Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) where she is currently confined did not give her clearance to leave the hospital.
She was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit (ICU) on Friday due to a blockage in her arteries. Arroyo spent two days in the ICU where she was monitored with chest pains and coronary ischemia, or diminished blood flow to the heart.
Arroyo was moved out of the ICU and was transferred to the presidential suite on Sunday, according to hospital director Dr. Nona Legaspi.
Asked if this meant that the patient’s condition had improved, Legaspi said: “That means that clinically, she is stable. But the risk is still there.”
Because of this perceived risk, the VMMC advised against letting Arroyo attend her arraignment yesterday at the Sandiganbayan.
“It is still risky for her to go out, since we cannot quantify her cardiac condition and we have not yet done the tests,” Legaspi said.
The VMMC on Monday sent a medical certification dated Oct. 14, signed by Dr. Jesus Jorge, in which the hospital said it may be better to forego the arraignment of Arroyo “until there is clinical evidence for her to do so.”
The VMMC said the patient’s vague chest pains and the ECG results “warrant an investigation for significant coronary disease.”
Morato’s lawyer, on the other hand, said his client was confined at St. Luke’s Medical Center with a heart ailment.
The Sandiganbayan reset their arraignment to Oct. 29 but Diaz appealed to the court for a later date, saying he was filing a certiorari before the Supreme Court to challenge the plunder findings of the Office of the Ombudsman against Arroyo.
Coaccused plead not guilty
The antigraft court, however, proceeded with the arraignment of former PCSO chairman Sergio Valencia and former PCSO assistant manager for finance Benigno Aguas, who both pleaded not guilty to the charge. The two are currently detained in Camp Crame.
The court has yet to resolve a pending motion filed by Arroyo’s lawyer to allow her to remain under hospital arrest at the VMMC and undergo tests at the Philippine Heart Center.
The other coaccused in the plunder case are former PCSO General Manager Rosario Uriarte; former directors Raymundo Roquero, Jose Taruc V and Ma. Fatima Valdes; former Commission on Audit (COA) Chair Reynaldo Villar and COA Region V head Nilda Paras.
The Bureau of Immigration earlier said that only Taruc was able to leave the country on July 19, or a day before a hold-departure order was issued by the Sandiganbayan.
A resolution signed by all three justices of the Sandiganbayan’s First Division said there was no sufficient basis to reverse the Ombudsman’s findings that the 10 had conspired to embezzle the P366-million confidential and intelligence fund of the PCSO. With a report from Julie M. Aurelio