Ombudsman probing Arroyo for second plunder charge
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on Wednesday said former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should not be celebrating yet because the office is still investigating her for a second charge of plunder over the same charity intelligence funds involving an earlier period.
Morales confirmed in a press conference that there is an ongoing preliminary investigation over a plunder and malversation complaint against Arroyo over the alleged misuse of P57 million Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) intelligence funds from 2004 to 2007.
Atty. Laurence Arroyo, Arroyo’s counsel in the PCSO case, was the first to claim that the Ombudsman was investigating the former president for a second plunder charge
“It’s a different preliminary investigation. I do not recall the amount but that covers the period 2004 to 2007,” Morales said.
“Assuming that we can prove that there was pillaging and ransacking of the public treasury, and if after the preliminary investigation we believe probable cause lies then we’ll certainly hail her to the court,” Morales said.
“If after the preliminary investigation, we believe probable cause lies then we’ll certainly hail her to the court,” Morales said.
Morales said the possible filing of another plunder case would not constitute double jeopardy because the investigation covered an earlier period involving the intelligence funds.
The plunder case which the Supreme Court dismissed involved P366 million in PCSO intelligence funds intended for charity use allegedly diverted for her personal gain during her term as president from 2008 to 2010.
“It cannot be a double jeopardy because it covers a different period,” Morales said.
Morales said if the Ombudsman finds probable cause, it would file the case to the Sandiganbayan which would determine if there is probable cause to send Arroyo back in detention.
“It would depend on the result of our preliminary investigation. Even assuming that we find probable cause to hail her into court again, it would depend on the assessment by the Sandiganbayan,” Morales said.
Morales maintained that the Office of the Special Prosecutor under the Ombudsman was able to prove Arroyo’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt of plunder.
“If what we read in the newspaper and what we listen to the media is correct, that the Supreme Court found that the evidence of the prosecution is insufficient, then we’d say otherwise. We believe we’re able to prove the guilt of GMA beyond reasonable doubt,” Morales said.
Morales said her office is ready to present to the court its pieces of evidence against Arroyo for plunder.
“Of course our evidence is reflected in the decision of the Sandiganbayan, which correctly assessed the evidence. But if any doubts linger in the minds of the magistrates, we are ready to present our evidence via a PowerPoint presentation and via a re-presentation of documentary exhibits,” Morales said.
On Tuesday, the high court granted Arroyo’s petition to dismiss the case and thus junked the case for “insufficiency of evidence,” thus setting Arroyo free from hospital detention that lasted four years.
The Supreme Court has yet to release the full ruling. The Sandiganbayan is waiting for its copy of the decision before it orders the release of Arroyo from detention at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center.
The Sandiganbayan First Division has repeatedly denied Arroyo’s petitions for bail and demurrer to evidence in the plunder rap.
Arroyo’s lawyers said the dismissal of the case is equivalent to acquitting Arroyo of plunder.
Besides her plunder case, Arroyo also faces charges of graft and breach of Code of Conduct for public officials in connection with the $329 million National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE.
Morales said the office remains confident of securing Arroyo’s conviction in the NBN-ZTE case.
Arroyo has filed before the Sandiganbayan her demurrer to evidence in her bid to dismiss the case for lack of evidence. A demurrer seeks to dismiss the grounds set by the prosecution against an accused.
Arroyo was charged with two counts of graft for approving the NBN deal despite being disadvantageous to government and despite knowing its irregularities. She was also accused of having personal gain in the contract.
Arroyo was also charged with one count of violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees or Republic Act 6713 for having lunch and playing golf with ZTE officials while the broadband project proposal was still being assessed by government.
The 2007 NBN-ZTE project would have interconnected government offices nationwide through broadband technology. RAM
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