Arroyo hearing under heavy guardBy Jeannette Andrade, Gil Cabacungan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Security will be extra tight Monday morning along the route from Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) to the Sandiganbayan where former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is set to be arraigned together with former officers of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) on plunder charges.
Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesperson Generoso Cerbo Jr. told the Philippine Daily Inquirer police would line the route along Commonwealth Avenue, paying particular attention to at least 10 “critical points” where the convoy carrying the now Pampanga representative could possibly be intercepted.
“I think there are 10 to 12 critical areas. It is just a precaution,” he said, assuring the public that Arroyo would be well secured on her way to the Sandiganbayan and back to the VMCC, where she is detained.
Civil disturbance and bomb disposal units will be on standby should protesters stage a mass action at either the VMMC or Sandiganbayan, the PNP spokesperson added.
Palace keeping tabs
Otherwise, the Police Security and Protection Group would primarily be in charge of the former President’s security while a contingent from the Quezon City Police District will secure the route, Cerbo said.
Malacañang will also be keeping close tabs on the arraignment of Arroyo.
“We normally monitor these kinds of things,” said Deputy Spokesperson Abigail Valte.
“The PNP will be on hand to make sure that everything goes well. If there will be protesters, whether pro or anti, we want to make sure the PNP will be there to keep the peace,” said Valte.
Arroyo is expected to plead “not guilty.” Her supporters said she was ready to show proof that she was not guilty of plunder since she did not personally profit from the alleged diversion of funds.
The Arroyo camp is waiting to see if the Supreme Court will issue a temporary restraining order on her arraignment today. A petition claimed she had been wrongly prosecuted for her alleged involvement in the misuse of PCSO funds
“We’re very hopeful. The [former] President has a very strong case and I hope the judges will be fair and realize that the case does not involve plunder,” said House Minority Leader and Arroyo ally Danilo Suarez in a phone interview.
Suarez said the Ombudsman failed to establish that Arroyo profited from the alleged misuse of over P300 million in PCSO funds.
“There is only plunder if the accused benefited from it like in the plunder case against former President Joseph Estrada. Her lawyers will show the disbursement vouchers attached to the plunder complaint as proof that she did not take part in the transactions expect for approving requests for additional disbursements from her intelligence fund,” said Suarez.
Aside from Arroyo, the others charged in the PCSO case were former PCSO chair Sergio O. Valencia, former PCSO general manager Rosario C. Uriarte, former PCSO directors Manuel L. Morato, Jose R. Taruc V, Raymundo T. Roquero and Ma. Fatima A. S. Valdes;
PCSO budget officer Benigno B. Aguas, former Commission on Audit chair Reynaldo A. Villar, and former COA-Intelligence Fund Unit head Nilda B. Plaras.
Suarez hoped President Aquino’s recent quip about the looming reunion between Arroyo and ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona in jail was not “a harbinger of how the Sandiganbayan would act on the case.”
One of Arroyo’s lawyers protested that such a remark was meant to put pressure on the courts. But Suarez remained optimistic: “We still believe in the integrity of our Sandiganbayan magistrates.”