Not guilty plea for Morato
Ailing former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office director Manuel Morato was finally arraigned Monday for plunder in connection with the alleged misuse of the agency’s P366-million intelligence fund.
But Morato, who was in a wheelchair and wore a face mask, refused to enter a plea, prompting the court to enter a not guilty plea for him.
Morato’s counsel, Anacleto Diaz, tried to defer the arraignment for a third time to give the high court time to resolve a motion for certiorari challenging the plunder information, but state prosecutors refused, citing Rules of Procedure.
Morato and his lawyer could instead seek available remedies under the law, according to the Sandiganbayan’s First Division which scheduled the preliminary conference of the case on Jan. 16, 2013.
The court, however, granted Morato’s request to visit the wake of his brother-in-law, Antonio Lazatin, at the family’s private chapel in Quezon City. Lazatin, who was married to Morato’s sister Teresita, died Saturday and will be buried on Wednesday.
Morato’s first scheduled arraignment in October was postponed after he submitted a medical certificate stating that he underwent open heart surgery and a triple bypass. His arraignment on Nov. 22 was postponed after he claimed to be too weak to stand trial. Cynthia D. Balana