In good mood, Sandiganbayan grants Arroyo, Padaca, Lozada petitionsBy Gil Cabacungan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Sandiganbayan, in a display of charitableness, granted Tuesday the petitions separately brought before it by three prominent accused, including former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In a decision issued after the close of office on Tuesday, the antigraft court granted Arroyo’s petition for a one-day leave from hospital arrest to visit her parents’ graves on All Souls’ Day.
Earlier on Tuesday, the Sandiganbayan granted the request of Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Grace Padaca and whistleblower Jun Lozada to leave the country despite facing separate graft charges.
Last Monday, the Sandiganbayan rejected former election Chairman Benjamin Abalos Jr.’s petition to be allowed to fly to Taiwan on a business mission.
‘Greater flight risk’
Abalos, who is out on bail on electoral sabotage charges, reportedly could not provide the court with a schedule of activities for his trip, including departure and return dates. Apparently, the Sandiganbayan considered Abalos a greater flight risk than Padaca and Lozada.
Renato Docar, the Sandiganbayan clerk of court and spokesman, said the one-day leave to Arroyo was granted on the following conditions: that she grant no media interviews; limit her stay in the cemetery to no more than six hours (excluding travel time to and from the hospital); and that court sheriffs be with her all times to monitor compliance.
Arroyo’s lawyer, Anacleto Diaz, filed the request early Tuesday. The prosecution posed no objection to Arroyo’s request to leave the hospital suite at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) on November 1 to visit her parents’ Libingan ng Bayani.
The court adjourned without issuing a ruling as it a medical clearance from Arroyo’s VMCC doctors was required, stating whether she was fit to travel and declaring how long she intended to stay outside of the place of detention.
But Arroyo’s lawyers were able to obtain the medical clearance a few hours after the hearing and promptly submitted it to the Sandiganbayan.
Padaca was granted leave to fly to the United States where she will be attending a seminar of the International Federation of Electoral System (IFES) from November 2 to 10, accompanied by another election commissioner, Armando Velasco. Padaca paid P140,000 for her travel bond.
Padaca told reporters that she agreed to a conditional arraignment of her case as a condition for the Sandiganbayan lifting the hold-departure order against her. Padaca earlier requested the Sandiganbayan to move her arraignment to November 29 in hopes that the Supreme Court would act on her petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against her graft case.
She entered a not-guilty plea to charges that she approved a P25-million grant to the Economic Development for Western Isabela and Northern Luzon Foundation Inc. without benefit of public bidding when she was governor of Isabela province in 2006.
Trip to Disneyland
The Sandiganbayan also granted leave for another accused, Lozada, to fly to Hong Kong and Macau from November 1 to 4. Lozada told the court he was going on a family vacation, which could include a trip to Hong Kong Disneyland. He posted a P180,000 travel bond.
Lozada, the star witness in the allegedly tainted NBN/ZTE deal in the Arroyo administration, is facing two separate graft charges in connection with the allegedly irregular grant of leasehold rights to public lands to his brother and to a company owned by him and his wife when he was president and chief executive officer of the state-owned Philippine Forest Corp. (Philforest) in 2007 and 2008.