SC stops Arroyo plunder trial
THE SUPREME Court has stopped the plunder trial of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for 30 days, ordering the antigraft court to comment on her petition questioning court resolutions that denied her right to seek a ruling on the sufficiency of evidence against her.
In an en banc session Tuesday, the high court issued a 30-day status quo ante order on proceedings against Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative who has been detained at the Veterans Memorial Center in Quezon City since Oct. 4, 2012 for allegedly misusing P365.997 million of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) intelligence funds.
The court ordered the antigraft court to comment within 10 days on Arroyo’s petition which argued that the prosecution’s evidence had failed to establish the crime of plunder.
In a 124-page petition for certiorari filed on Oct. 15, the Arroyo camp asked the high court to set aside “for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion” the Sandiganbayan’s resolutions denying her demurrer to evidence, a pleading that sought to dismiss the plunder charges against her on account of insufficiency of evidence.
The antigraft court denied Arroyo’s first attempt to get the court to rule on the sufficiency of the evidence on April 6 of this year, and then her reconsideration plea on Sept. 10. This prompted her to elevate the matter to the high court.
Arroyo’s plea said the antigraft court’s rejection of the demurrer to evidence would eventually lead to Arroyo’s conviction for plunder.
“As an obvious consequence of the above, denial of petitioner Arroyo’s demurrer to evidence [would lead to] to no less than convicting her on the basis of a disjointed reading of the crime of plunder as defined,” read the petition.
It said the Sandiganbayan had effectively “redefined” the offense of plunder in finding the former President liable “on the basis solely of her authorization of the release of confidential/intelligence funds from the PSCO’s accounts.”
It argued that Arroyo was being tried and detained for “a crime that does not exist in law, and consequently a blatant deprivation of liberty without due process of law.”
“Not a single testimony of the 21 witnesses of the prosecution was offered… to prove that petitioner amassed, accumulated or acquired even a single peso of the alleged ill-gotten wealth,” the petition said.
“No evidence whatsoever was offered by the prosecution, and not any is on record in the case, to show that petitioner Arroyo ever got hold, received or utilized a single peso of the alleged ill-gotten wealth,” it read.
It said there was “absolutely no justification” in law or in evidence that would prove that Arroyo was the “mastermind of a conspiracy,” or that she had made “a series of withdrawals as cash advances” from the PCSO’s confidential/intelligence funds.
Malacañang Tuesday declined to comment on the status quo ante order issued by the Supreme Court in favor of Arroyo.
“I need to know first what is the content of their (SC) order to understand it and be able to give a reasonable commentary,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. told reporters in Filipino. With a report from Nikko Dizon
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