Arroyo seeks dismissal of plunder case
Says it has ‘undertones of political harassment’By Tetch Torres
MANILA, Philippines—Former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo asked the Supreme Court to stop the Sandiganbayan from proceeding with the P366-million plunder case against her, saying the case has “undertones of political harassment.”
In an 81-page petition for certiorari and prohibition, Arroyo, through lawyer Anacleto Diaz also asked the high court to reverse the finding of probable cause by the Ombudsman and order the dismissal of the case.
Arroyo was rearrested on October on orders of the an anti-graft court for allegedly funnelling money from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s (PCSO) confidential fund for over three years, and spending the money on election campaigns.
She has been under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center where she is being treated for a long-term spinal illness.
Arroyo could face life in jail if found guilty of the plunder charge.
Nine other lottery and government officials have also been charged over their alleged involvement. They are former General Manager Rosario Uriarte; Sergio Valencia, Manuel Morato, Raymundo Roquero, Jose Taruc V and Ma. Fatima Valdes; former COA Chair Reynaldo Villar and Region V head Nilda Plaras, and PCSO assistant general manager for finance Benigno Aguas. Valencia and Aguas are already under the custody of the PNP.
In her petition, Arroyo said there is no evidence to show she participated in the “grand conspiracy” to steal the PCSO’s intelligence funds.
In fact, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales herself admitted that Arroyo’s participation in the release of PCSO funds was merely in approving the request for Confidential Intelligence Funds, the petition read.
“According to the Ombudsman, the acts of authorizing the disbursement, release and use of PCSO’s CIF involved discretionary acts of the concerned PCSO officials,” it said.
“Clearly, therefore, to hold petitioner [Arroyo] liable, there must be evidence that she also participated or was involved in the separate discretionary acts of the PCSO,” the petition read. “The Ombudsman should not have stretched her findings to indict petitioner [Arroyo] for acts which she did not do or cause to be done.”
The petition further stated that if the Ombudsman dismissed the plunder case against former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita because he merely approved Uriarte’s request for additional CIF, the case against Arroyo should be dismissed as well because what she did was similar to what Ermita had done.
The petition added that the case against Arroyo has “undertones of political harassment” with the complainants being known allies of President Benigno Aquino.
The petition also took note of the fact that Morales filed the plunder case before the Sandiganbayan a few days before the State of the Nation Address of Aquino on July 23. At the same time, the warrant for her arrest was issued at the time of the filing of certificate of candidacy. Arroyo is seeking a second term as representative of Pampanga.
The respondents allegedly conspired in withdrawing, amassing, accumulating public funds worth over P300 million from July 2007 to January 2010.
Uriarte is accused of writing several letters to Arroyo, authorizing her to utilize the intelligence funds for PCSO to help them in conducting intelligence operations.
During a Senate inquiry last year, Uriarte said the funds were used to investigate how medicines given to beneficiaries ended up in commercial markets and the creation of measures to counter scams victimizing lotto bettors.
This is the first plunder case filed against Arroyo and the third criminal case filed against her.
Arroyo was initially charged in November last year with vote fraud for allegedly conspiring to rig the 2007 senatorial elections.
Arroyo spent most of the next eight months in detention at the same military hospital where she was arrested early this month.
She eventually won bail in July, with a court saying the government’s case against her was weak.
In December last year, Arroyo was also charged with corruption for approving an allegedly graft-tainted contract with a Chinese telecom firm to set up a national government broadband system,
Arroyo has pleaded not guilty to both charges. With Agence France-Presse