By Perfecto T. Raymundo / Philippines News Agency
FORMER President and now Lakas-Kampi-CMD Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Pampanga has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss the plunder case filed against her and several others before the Sandiganbayan for approving the release of more than P365 million in Confidential-Intelligence Funds (CIF) of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) during her tenure as Chief Executive.
In a 115-page petition for certiorari dated October 15, 2015, through her lawyer former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza, Arroyo asked the Court to expedite the proceedings and to set the case for oral arguments.
She also asked the SC to suspend further proceedings of the case before the Sandiganbayan, through a temporary restraining order (TRO), particularly a hearing to receive the evidence of the accused by way of defense.
Arroyo’s petition was filed several days after the United Nations (UN) Working Group on Human Rights ruled that the detention of the former president is arbitrary under each and all of the three categories of arbitrariness.
“Mrs. Arroyo was denied bail on grounds that are not compatible with international law; she did not benefit from the presumption in favor of bail; she was denied bail exclusively on the basis of the alleged strength of evidence against her; measures alternative to pretrial detention were not considered and there were undue delays in considering her bail position in the proceedings against her as a whole,” the UN ruling said.
“Accordingly, the UN recommended the reconsideration of Mrs. Arroyo’s application for bail in accordance with the relevant international human-rights standards,” it added.
In her petition, Arroyo asked the SC “to render judgment annulling, reversing and setting aside the resolutions of April 6, 2015 and September 10, 2015 denying petitioner’s Demurrer to Evidence dated August 27, 2014, for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of, or in excess of jurisdiction.”
In lieu of this, she also asked the SC to dismiss the criminal case against her and acquit her of the offense charged.
Besides Arroyo, also charged with plunder by the Office of the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan were former PCSO General Manager and Vice Chairman Rosario Uriarte; Directors Manuel Morato, Jose Taruc, Raymundo Roquero and Maria Fatima Valdes; Budget and Accounts Manager Benigno Aguas; Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Reynaldo Villar; and former COA CIF Fraud Audit Unit Head Nilda Plaras.
The complaint alleged that they conspired and confederated with one another to unlawfully amass, accumulate and acquire ill-gotten wealth [the said amount], through any or a series of criminal acts.
However, all of the accused who were indicted before the Sandiganbayan had already been granted bail for their temporary liberty except Arroyo. Because of this, Arroyo also sought equal justice under law.
“The Sandiganbayan resolutions denying petitioner Arroyo’s Demurrer to Evidence, as shown heretofore, in creating a new criminal offense without authority of the Constitution and the law, and applying the newly created criminal offense ex post facto to petitioner Arroyo, on their face do not render ‘Equal Justice Under Law,’” the petition said.