Arroyo wants marathon trial of plunder case
Defense lawyers calls for a speedy trial of the former President. Prosecutors' plan to call at least 29 witnesses and present 230 or more documents will make this impossible

File photo of Former Pres GMA

MANILA, Philippines –  Detained Pampanga Rep Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is challenging prosecutors to marathon hearings on her plunder case.

In a 10-page Reply filed late Wednesday, August 14, her lawyers, Anacleto Diaz and Analene Balisong, said the former President is entitled to a speedy trial. They said prosecutors should present all evidence against her in separate proceedings so the court can immediately conclude if she is guilty or innocent of having misused P366 million funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

They said Arroyos right to due process and speedy disposition of her case prevails over objections by the prosecution that a separate trial would be inconvenient and would entail additional expenses for the government since some witnesses might have to be recalled later on to restate their testimonies.

They also pointed out that the intention of prosecutors to call at least 29 witnesses and present 230 or more documents will result in an “inevitable protracted trial.”

However, they noted that for the most part, the evidence that were identified pertain to the operations of the PCSO which does not concern Arroyo in any way.

“The worst is that none of these listed witnesses and documentary exhibits of the Prosecution show directly or indirectly the participation or involvement of accused GMA (Arroyo) in the crime charged,” the defense said.

As to the defense argument that allowing a separate trial for Arroyo “could open the floodgates” for similar requests by other defendants in conspiracy cases, the defense said the premise is invalid.

“To begin with, an accused cannot demand a separate trial as a matter of right as the same is subject to the sound discretion of the court. More importantly, to accept the prosecution’s claim will effectively erase form our rules and jurisprudence, the remedy of a separate trial,” it said.

The case, filed in June 2012, alleged that the former President conspired with former PCSO executives and Commission on Audit officials in the irregular disbursement of confidential intelligence funds (CIF) of the PCSO amounting to P366 million between January 2008 and June 2010.

Arroyo was specifically accused of unlawfully approving the conversion of operating funds of PCSO into CIF to simplify disbursement and avoid stricter accounting procedures.

She has challenged the sufficiency of government evidence to sustain a plunder indictment and petitioned the Sandiganbayan to release her on bail but her request remains pending after the three justices of the First Division failed to reach unanimity on whether the evidence against her is strong enough to deny her bail application. –