The Sandiganbayan on Wednesday denied separate petitions of detained former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and three others accused of plundering charity sweepstakes funds for a Christmas furlough.
A nine-page resolution of the antigraft court’s First Division said there was lack of merit in the motions of Arroyo, now a representative of Pampanga, former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) Chairman Sergio Valencia, former PCSO board member Manuel Morato and former PCSO Budget Officer Benigno Aguas to leave their hospital detention quarters and spend the Christmas and New Year holidays with their families.
Arroyo, currently on hospital arrest at Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City, had sought the court’s approval to celebrate the yuletide holidays in Lubao, Pampanga, from Dec. 21 to Jan. 7 next year.
The court rejected her petition, saying it would be a display of partiality if her request was granted. To do so would also negate the very reason why the court allowed her to stay at VMMC, “for if she could already travel to Lubao, Pampanga, and stay in her house there for three weeks, there is no reason for her to be confined in a hospital,” it added.
The court was also not convinced that there would be no therapists to attend to her at the military hospital.
The court cited the same reasons for rejecting the motions of Valencia, Aguas and Morato.
The court did not agree with Morato’s contention that his detention amounted to cruel and unusual punishment. Morato’s detention is but a consequence of being charged with a nonbailable offense, it said.
“Besides, the arrest and temporary detention of accused persons, as well as their detention by reason of illness requiring their confinement in a hospital, is not considered a penalty,” the court said.
Arroyo and her coaccused at the PCSO are charged with plundering millions of pesos from the state charity fund during her term from 2001 to 2010.
Her allies deplored the Sandiganbayan’s decision, saying Arroyo was a former president and an incumbent lawmaker, and not a security flight risk.
Minority Leader Danilo Suarez said her allies in the House, some 23 lawmakers, visited the former president on Tuesday. He said Arroyo still looked thin and frail but was not wearing her neck brace during the get-together.
Arroyo reportedly gave out letters to her allies to thank them for continuing to stand by her. With a report from Leila B. Salaverria