Morales to Arroyo: Not so fast
A new plunder case may be in store for Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, according to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who is unbowed by the Supreme Court decision absolving the former President on charges that she pocketed P366 million in state lottery funds.
“Assuming we can prove there was pillaging or ransacking of the public treasury,” Morales told a press conference on Wednesday, Arroyo, a reelected Pampanga representative, could end up back in detention.
As of Wednesday, the 69-year-old Arroyo was still awaiting her release papers at Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City where she had been detained since 2012 because she was suffering from severe spinal problems.
On Tuesday, the Supreme Court announced Arroyo’s acquittal on plunder by an 11-4 vote without immediately releasing the decision.
Morales said state prosecutors were conducting a preliminary investigation of another case against Arroyo that also involved the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.
“I do not recall the amount but it covers the period of 2004 to 2007,” she said.
In the case, which was thrown out by the Supreme Court, Arroyo was accused of diverting P366 million from the PCSO’s confidential intelligence funds for her personal use between January 2008 and June 2010.
Part of the funds were supposed to have gone to the National Bureau of Investigation and the Armed Forces of the Philippines, but the money was allegedly coursed to the Office of the President.
Morales said the new case would involve an amount upward of P50 million, qualifying it for plunder, a nonbailable offense.
“If after preliminary investigation we believe probable cause lies, we will certainly hale her to court,” Morales said.
On the Supreme Court decision, Morales insisted, “We were able to prove the guilt of GMA beyond reasonable doubt.”
“I can say we were able to present strong evidence through 630-plus documentary exhibits and testimonials, which are reflected in 43 transcripts of office stenographic notes, as well as records from A to Z, consisting of 40 plus folders,” Morales said. “To us, these are exhaustive records.”
Morales admitted that the prosecutors were in low spirits because of the high tribunal’s ruling.
“It’s just natural they are disappointed. They are disheartened, but they know that they should move on. This is not the end of the line. We have other options, one of which or two of which we will exercise,” she said.
Asked to elaborate on those options, Morales only said they might file a motion for reconsideration once they had received a copy of the decision, and determined whether an appeal was “warranted.”
“We have many legal options. I’m not going to place our cards on the table. I would not like to open the eyes of our detractors,” she said.
Morales noted that one of Arroyo’s coaccused in the case, Rosario Uriarte, was still in hiding after so many years.
“And as the saying goes, if you are innocent, you are bold as a lion, but flight can also indicate guilt—I’m only saying indicate,” she said.
She also noted denials on the side of the AFP and the NBI that the agencies made any request for intelligence funds, or that they had been a beneficiary of any amount from the PCSO.
The Ombudsman also cited the testimony of another accused, Benigno Aguas, who certified under oath that P244 million of the PCSO’s funds went to the Office of the President.
“And P140-plus million of that [was] given to the Office of the President in January 2010 up to June 2010, which was parenthetically an election period,” she said.
Act of one, act of all
On the Arroyo defense’s argument that the prosecution failed to prove that the former President herself got the money, the Ombudsman said: “You will recall that the charge is for conspiracy, act of one is act of all.”
“There is a series of acts that would show there was conspiracy and the accused were guilty of having pillaged the treasury beyond the amount of P50 million,” Morales said.
She bristled at a question about whether she ought to resign due to her failure to prosecute Arroyo even when she had six years to do so.
“Do I have to win all cases I file? Do you have to fault prosecutors if they lose cases? Do you have to fault the Sandiganbayan if their decisions are reversed?” she said.
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