Arroyo’s conviction won’t depend solely on Ombudsman
MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino’s allies in the House of Representatives said the conviction of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo or any government official charged with a criminal case would depend not just on Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales but also on the quality of evidence and prosecutors handling the case.
“The new Ombudsman has a reputation for uprightness, quick action and so forth so we expect she will,” Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. said in a press briefing.
Belmonte said he expected Morales to act with dispatch in disposing off cases pending before her office unlike her predecessor, Merceditas Gutierrez, who resigned after the House of Representatives voted for her impeachment trial in the Senate.
“In fact, there are no new cases. There are pending cases in the Office of the Ombudsman that have not been acted upon, some of them have date of few years that have not been acted upon,” Belmonte said.
In another press conference, Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III said that Arroyo, now a representative of Pampanga, was not the only target of the corruption campaign of the government but also other erring officials who raided the government coffers.
Tañada clarified that the appointment of Carpio-Morales as Ombudsman was no guarantee that Arroyo and cohorts would be convicted.
“I don’t think the President has any specific orders to go after GMA (Arroyo’s initials),” Tañada said of the President’s State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) Monday.
“What the President mentioned was she (Carpio-Morales) should do her job based on the evidence presented.”
Tañada said he expected Carpio-Morales to seek the conviction of Arroyo and allies in the Sandiganbayan if evidence warranted and to dismiss the charges if evidence was weak.
“To file a case, all you need is probable cause. To get a conviction in the Sandiganbayan is proof beyond reasonable doubt. So there are two different levels and that is subject to the discretion of three (Sandiganbayan) justices,” he stressed.
He said the thinking that Morales should be measured by the conviction of the Arroyo would be a bit unfair to her because the conviction would not be totally dependent on her.
“She is there to evaluate the evidence. Now it’s the duty of the special prosecutors to prove beyond reasonable doubt that indeed anyone who had committed graft and corruption is guilty,” Tanada said.
Tañada pointed out that no less than the President had mentioned it would take time to convict finally as the appeals process could go all the way up to the Supreme Court, the period of which could even go beyond his term.
This is why the person who would prosecute the case should be of the same wavelength as the Ombudsman, according to Tañada.
“That’s why we have to watch that,” he said.
Deputy Majority Leader Federico Romero Quimbo said the President wanted to make sure that the evidence against anyone would stand the test of legal procedure by appointing a person like Morales.
Quimbo said the President did not categorically state in his State of the Nation Address that Arroyo was behind all the corruption during her administration but that he wanted to make sure that government people would think twice in engaging in corrupt acts because in terms of performance, Carpio-Morales had shown probity, integrity and independence.
He said he expected the Ombudsman to restore the people’s confidence in the office and at the same time sow fear among erring officials.
“We expect no less from her as far as the proceedings are concerned,” Quimbo said.
Dasmariñas City Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr. said getting a conviction for Arroyo should not be a barometer for Morales’ greatness as Ombudsman.
“If the case is not really winnable, we can’t win the case in the same manner that if there is no evidence to establish probable cause, I do not think that the Ombudsman would be filing cases,” Barzaga said.
On the quality of evidence, Barzaga said there were evidence against Arroyo that were not available before.
An example, he said, was the statement of former Governor Zaldy Ampatuan and former Maguindanao Elections Supervisor Lintang Bedol on the supposed electoral fraud in the 2004 presidential and 2007 senatorial elections.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.