Ex-SolGen: Ombudsman ‘cruel’ for going after Arroyo again
Former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza on Friday blasted the Ombudsman for being “cruel” toward former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who has just been released from detention for plunder.
In a press briefing at his law office in Makati City, Mendoza, who once defended the dictator Ferdinand Marcos as his justice minister, said the Ombudsman’s move to investigate Arroyo for a second plunder charge was “cruel” and “oppressive” especially after the Supreme Court acquitted Arroyo of her first plunder charge involving misuse of P366 million state lottery funds from 2008 to 2010.
“I will put it a little strongly—very dismaying, if not shocking. She should read the decision,” Mendoza said, referring to former associate justice and now Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who in a press briefing said Arroyo was not yet off the hook for a plunder investigation involving abuse of at least P57 million state lottery funds from 2004 to 2007.
Mendoza, as Arroyo’s lead counsel in her petition to dismiss the case granted by the Supreme Court, said it seemed that what Morales wanted was to put Arroyo back in detention even after the former President was acquitted from her first plunder charge.
“What she wants to do is that when she’s acquitted and walks free she will immediately handcuff her and put her to jail again. I don’t think there can be anything more oppressive than that, if not cruel,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza also questioned the motive of Morales in investigating Arroyo for alleged fund misuse during an earlier period when there was already a case covering the latter period of 2008 to 2010.
“The charge is similar. In fact, it is surprising the subject of the new charge is for alleged disbursement or funds which took place earlier than the present case. So if this took place earlier, why were they not filed earlier or before this case?” Mendoza said.
In a press briefing Wednesday, Ombudsman Morales maintained that her office was able to prove the guilt of Arroyo in the alleged diversion of intelligence funds from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office for personal gain from 2008 to 2010.
“It’s a different preliminary investigation. I do not recall the amount but that covers the period 2004 to 2007. 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 hale 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.
“It cannot be a double jeopardy because it covers a different period,” Morales said.
She maintained that the Office of the Special Prosecutor under the Ombudsman was able to prove Arroyo’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt of plunder.
Morales also denied that her panel of prosecutors were out to persecute Arroyo upon the orders of former President Benigno Aquino III, who had appointed her as Ombudsman.
“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.
“We are independent. We do not take orders from the President. We don’t take signals from the President. We do our duty in accordance with what’s expected of us. Wala kaming sinusundang guidelines or orders. It’s unfair to charge us to be lapdogs of the (Aquino) administration,” Morales added.
Upon being served the release order by the Sandiganbayan, Arroyo on Thursday walked free around 6:30 p.m. after four years in hospital detention at Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City./rga
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