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Arroyo fails to get high court relief this time

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 01:09 AM November 23, 2011

Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

Not this time.

After earlier getting from the Supreme Court a temporary restraining order (TRO) on their inclusion in the immigration watch list, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, have failed to secure injunctive relief that would have invalidated the election sabotage case filed against her as well as her arrest on November 18.

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The high court on Tuesday voted 10-4 not to grant the former First Couple’s urgent petition for a TRO seeking to stop the joint panel of the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from investigating the alleged cheating in the 2007 Senate elections in Mindanao. Instead, it decided to hear the arguments of the executive branch before issuing a ruling on the matter.

“There is no [TRO] or a status quo ante order,” the Supreme Court administrator and spokesperson, Jose Midas Marquez, announced at a news briefing.

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“Probably, the petition was not sufficient or the petitioners were not able to show that they were entitled to the relief prayed for. That’s why no TRO was issued,” he said.

Asked if the issuance of an injunctive order could have suspended the arrest of Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative, Marquez said: “That’s right. “The prayer for TRO is not yet being resolved because the court would like to see and go over the comment of the government.”

Told that that was the position of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in refusing to enforce the high court’s November 15 TRO, he said: “That’s different. “In the petition against the watch-list order, the petitioners were able to show that they were entitled to the relief prayed for. But in this case, the petitioners were not able to show that.”

Marquez said the justices had scheduled oral arguments on November 29 and directed all parties to submit their comments within five days.

Consolidated petitions

By the same vote of 10-4, he said the court decided to consolidate the Arroyos’ separate petitions and a similar pleading filed by former Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos, Marquez said.

The petitioners had asked the tribunal to declare as unconstitutional the creation of the joint DOJ-Comelec panel that conducted the preliminary inquiry into the alleged rigging of the 2007 senatorial elections.

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They also sought to void the joint panel’s recommendations that the Comelec had used as basis in filing an electoral sabotage case against Arroyo in the Pasay City Regional Trial Court.

Again voting 10-4, the justices ruled that the high court should “continue to take cognizance” of the case although charges had already been filed against Arroyo, Marquez said.

“So all the three consolidated cases will be heard by the Supreme Court. That’s why the court is requiring the respondents to file their comment,” he said. “After the oral arguments on Tuesday, those petitions will be acted upon by the court.”

Marquez said only 14 justices took part in the deliberations because Associate Justice Arturo Brion was on sick leave.

He said the justices took into consideration the recent developments concerning the issue of Arroyo’s averted foreign travel, including her arrest as ordered by Pasay Judge Jesus Mupas.

Marquez said the justices apparently saw no urgency to issue a reprieve for the Arroyos: “If the court wanted to issue a TRO or a [status quo ante order, it] could have done that. … But since there is [none], let’s stop at that. Everything will still be speculative now without a court order.”

He also said the perceived conflict between Malacañang and the Supreme Court on the issue of Arroyo “is healthy.”

“That’s part of the checks and balances in government. I think that’s healthy as long as it will not lead to a constitutional crisis,” he said.

‘To know the truth’

De Lima welcomed the  high court’s decision to defer action on the Arroyos’ urgent motion pending the oral arguments on the joint DOJ-Comelec panel.

Speaking with reporters, De Lima insisted on the legality of the creation of the preliminary investigation committee which, she said, was prompted by the surfacing of a number of witnesses to the purported election fraud.

“It is proper for us to do a joint investigation since we have the same objective—to determine the truth and to determine who are and who will be made accountable,” she said. “That is within the mandate of both offices.”

The justice secretary reiterated that the DOJ-Comelec panel was not intended to determine the real winners in the 2007 senatorial elections but “to know the truth, if indeed electoral sabotage has been committed.”

She wondered why the Arroyos were questioning the legality of the joint panel almost three months after it was created on August 15.

“Are you not surprised that they are challenging the legality of the DOJ-Comelec probe? Is it because a case was filed against them?” she told reporters.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez likewise welcomed the high court’s move.

“I guess it’s a good thing because the task of the panel would continue. Right now we’ve filed one case and we’re looking to file major cases in the coming days. But what we are looking for is a final decision on whether or not the panel is constitutionally infirm,” Jimenez told reporters.

“While this is a small victory, certainly we are very interested in finding out what the Supreme Court thinks about the [constitutionality] of the panel. It’s always a good sign if you’re not prevented from doing your work,”  he said.

Jimenez said the Comelec was looking forward to defending the creation of the joint panel in the oral arguments scheduled next week.

Like ‘a real man’

On the phone with the Inquirer, former Comelec Chairman Abalos said he would not seek “hospital asylum” and would face “as a real man” the charges that the poll body was planning to bring against him.

“I am willing to face anybody. I will surrender voluntarily if there’s already a warrant of arrest,” he said.

Abalos took offense at news reports that he was taken to hospital upon learning that he would be included in the electoral sabotage case filed against Arroyo, who is now under hospital arrest at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City.

On November 18, when Arroyo was served the arrest warrant, Abalos was reported to have suffered organ bleeding, which he also experienced during the 2004 national elections due to stress-related hypertension.

“The insinuation that I’m going to do what the [former] President did was offensive. These people are rude. That should not be written that way,” said Abalos, 77.

He said that he was now resting in his home in Mandaluyong City, and that he was getting emotional because he felt like being “on the edge of the cliff” and unsure if he was about to fall or not.

“If you were in my shoes, wouldn’t you feel stressed? Any time they may arrest me and it’s a nonbailable [case],” he said.

Abalos said that if before he was just laughing off allegations on his involvement in the tampering of official returns in the 2007 senatorial elections, now he was deeply bothered because these had started to disturb his family.

“My wife is always praying the rosary, hoping we can surpass this one,” said Abalos, whose son Benhur Abalos is the mayor of Mandaluyong City.

Abalos is one of the recommended respondents in the election sabotage case which took into account the sworn statements of Yogie Martirizar and Lilian Radam that he engineered the “12-0” victory of Arroyo’s senatorial candidates in parts of Mindanao in 2007.

He has been discrediting Martirizar, a former acting election supervisor in North Cotabato, and Radam, a former election supervisor in South Cotabato, saying that before he resigned as Comelec chair, he had them charged and arrested.

He also accused De Lima of coddling “criminals” after the DOJ took the two into custody and turned them into state witnesses. With reports from Niña Calleja and Jerome Aning

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TAGS: Arroyo health, Arroyo travel, DOJ-Comelec Panel, electoral sabotage, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Government, Judiciary, Supreme Court
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