Aquino: Cases vs Arroyo not a priority
MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III Sunday confirmed the government was preparing to file corruption charges against former President turned Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but stressed that for now the priority was to find a new Ombudsman to replace Merceditas Gutierrez who is stepping down on May 6.
The President said he wanted the new Ombudsman to be “dedicated” and courageous in pursuing justice for the government.
Speaking to reporters after hosting a Labor Day breakfast for labor leaders in Malacañang, Mr. Aquino was asked if the government was lining up cases against Arroyo now that Gutierrez —whom he had described as the obstacle to the government’s bid to file cases against the former president and her allies—was on the way out.
Mr. Aquino said the Palace-created Truth Commission was “set up primarily to get all of that [cases],” and that the cases that had been “deposited” with the presidential body—which has yet to convene pending the Supreme Court’s final decision on the constitutionality of its creation—were “still intact.”
“We are closer to actually filing charges where appropriate,” the President said.
But he added: “Can I say it’s difficult to say that it’s directed to specific individuals at this point in time. There’s still a process that has to be followed but we will make the appropriate announcements to the cases that are ready for filing at the soonest possible time.”
He said the focus now was on finding a new Ombudsman, adding that he was awaiting the list of nominees from the Judicial and Bar Council.
Meanwhile, two members of the ruling Liberal Party, which Mr. Aquino heads, are on the short list for the next Ombudsman which will be submitted to the President.
Former Sen. Wigberto Tañada and former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rene Villa are generating the “biggest buzz” among the candidates for Gutierrez’s replacement.
A source in Aquino administration said former Chief Justice Reynato Puno had declined the President’s offer of the Ombudsman post. Christine O. Avendaño and Gil Cabacungan
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