Pasay judge sets Arroyo arraignment for Feb. 20
The Pasay Regional Trial Court dismissed former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s motion to recall an arrest warrant against her, paving the way for her arraignment for electoral fraud on Feb. 20.
Judge Jesus Mupas in a three-page order Wednesday said there was “reasonable belief” of Arroyo’s involvement in electoral sabotage and this was enough to justify the arrest order against her and two others.
Arroyo’s lawyers had argued that the court acted in “undue haste” and without enough evidence when it issued the arrest order just hours after the Commission on Elections and the justice department filed the case. Despite the thick records of the case and the lack of authenticated documents, Mupas issued the warrant before the court day ended on November 18, defense lawyers noted.
The arrest order was served on the former President at her room at the St. Luke’s Hospital in Taguig later that night.
The court warrant averted a showdown between the administration and the Supreme Court, which had earlier granted Arroyo a temporary restraining order (TRO) on a hold-departure issuance by the Department of Justice because no case had yet been filed against her.
Treatment overseas sought
On November 16, the former President attempted to leave the country ostensibly to seek medical treatment overseas for a bone disorder. Despite the TRO, she was stopped by the Aquino government.
In junking the motion to reconsider the arrest order, Mupas said “It is worth stressing that the finding of probable cause does not touch the issue of guilt or innocence of the accused.”
“All that the court did was to weigh the evidence presented together with the affidavits and resolutions, and determine if there was enough reason to believe that a crime has been committed and that the accused are probably guilty thereof,” he continued.
Mupas acknowledged that the bone of contention by the accused revolved on the “propriety of the court in the issuance” of the arrest warrant against Arroyo, also a Pampanga representative.
“When the complaint was filed before this court, and upon direct assessment of facts… the court made an honest belief that there were reasonable grounds on which such belief was founded, which cannot be negated for want of evidence,” the court explained.
Arroyo’s counsel argued that the rap sheet lacked “authenticated documents that would support the alleged commission of the crime,” particularly evidence that would point to the accused forging disputed election documents.
Such grounds were merely “evidentiary” in nature, the court said, and it could be discussed at length during the trial proper.
Lack of evidence
Any claims of lack of evidence, as raised by defense lawyers, would also be tackled during the trial, the court added.
“The issuance of [the] warrant of arrest is just a prefatory and not a final judgment,” the court said. “It is worth stressing that the finding of probable cause does not touch the issue of guilt or innocence of the accused.”
With the junking of Arroyo’s motion to recall the arrest warrant, the court set her arraignment on February 20.