SC ruling to acquit Arroyo draws mixed reactions from senators
Senators have mixed reactions over the Supreme Court’s (SC) junking of the remaining plunder case against former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as one expressed disbelief while another was supportive, citing humanitarian consideration.
“What’s happening? These are trying times and why did they have to wait for the change in administration to issue that ruling?” newly elected Senator Leila De Lima said in an interview at the Senate on Tuesday.
De Lima, former head of the Department of Justice, said she was disappointed with and “disheartened” by the ruling, noting how the Sandiganbayan had repeatedly dismissed Arroyo’s plea for bail and demurer to evidence.
But she said she had already foreseen the favorable decision for Arroyo after the SC allowed former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile to post bail in a plunder case due to health reasons.
“It also crossed my mind (before) when the Supreme Court also granted bail to former Senator Enrile…sabi ko baka isunod nila yung (I thought they would also do the same to the) case of the former President ’cause we’re seeing their situations and the Supreme Court seems to assume the role now of trier of facts,” De Lima said.
“Kasi yung Sandiganbayan several times na yang ni-reject, the plea for bail and then demurrer to evidence etcetera (Sandiganbayan has rejected the the plea for bail and then demurrer to evidence etcetera several times) because Sandiganbayan is the trier of facts ganun din sa case nun ni former Senator Enrile na imbes na ipaubaya sa Sandiganbayan ang decision (the same as the case of Senator Enrile that instead of letting the Sandiganbayan decide) whether or not to grant the bail for the former senator, the SC assumed that role, citing failing health or old age, for health reasons which is not even a ground because the only ground recognized by the Constitution and the law is the evidence of guilt is not strong.”
“Now here’s the Supreme Court based on the news reports saying that the evidence of guilt is not strong, now supplanting again the assessment of the Sandigabayan as a trier of facts. So it’s disappointing,” the senator added.
De Lima said she was disheartened by the decision pointing out how the previous administration fought hard against corruption.
Akbayan Senator Risa Hontiveros, one of the petitioners in the plunder cases against Arroyo in connection with the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) fund, also expressed shock and disappointment with the SC ruling.
“I am shocked with the high court’s ruling. But we will not lose hope. Tuloy ang laban para sa katarungan (Let us continue to fight for justice),” Hontiveros said in a statement.
The ruling of the high court, she said, was a “sad day for justice.”
“The case we filed is strong. In fact, it was one of the two PCSO plunder cases admitted by the Office of the Ombudsman under Conchita Carpio-Morales, and subsequently filed before the Sandiganbayan,” said the senator.
Hontiveros said the Ombudsman had already confirmed the alleged diversion of funds from PCSO’s operating budget to the confidential or intelligence fund, which could be withdrawn or accessed any time and with few restrictions.
The Ombudsman, she said, had also confirmed that the said funds were “converted, misused and illegally-transferred the funds for their own use in the guise of fictitious expenditures.”
On the other hand, Senator Panfilo Lacson backed the ruling, saying Arroyo has already suffered enough “having spent six years in detention under an extremely difficult physical condition.”
“Even for purely humanitarian consideration, I support the SC ruling to free her and accord her some comfort for the remaining years of her life which are not really that many considering her age,” Lacson said in a text message to reporters,
“As I have repeatedly said, while I will never forget who they are, I have forgiven all my tormentors for the past 9 years under her administration, living or dead,” he added.
Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero said he respects the SC decision, saying that “respect for the rule of law demands nothing less.”
“I respect the decision of the Court as everyone else should, whether they agree with it or not. Respect for the rule of law demands nothing less,” Escudero said in another text message.
He was quick to dismiss, however, that the court’s decision was influenced by President Rodrigo Duterte’s previous statement that he was willing to pardon the former leader.
“I don’t think the statements of President Duterte have anything to do with it as I believe in the independence of the Court,” Escudero said.
Senator Antonio Trillanes IV believed otherwise, noting that Arroyo’s release was one of Duterte’s campaign promises.
“At least, he (Duterte) did not need to do much to fulfill this one,” Trillanes said. RAM/rga
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