MANILA, Philippines – Government prosecutors on Tuesday, April 17, asked the Sandiganbayan’s fourth division to suspend former President now Pampanga (2nd Dist.) Rep Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from office based on two pending graft charges against her.
The panel of prosecutors, composed of Director Rabendranath Y. Uy and assistant special prosecutors Louella Mae Oco-Pesquera, Jacinto M. dela Cruz Jr. and Marlon N. Ramos, pointed out that Arroyo could no longer challenge the validity of the information filed against her on Dec 28, 2012 because she has already been arraigned.During her April 11 arraignment, Arroyo submitted pleas of not guilty to two counts of graft and one count of violation of RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Her co-accused, her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo and resigned Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr., also pleaded not guilty while the arraignment of former Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza was deferred to give him time to recover from a mild stroke.
Charges against them stemmed from allegations of fraud and abuse of public office in connection with the scrapped US$329-M national broadband network project proposed by Chinese firm, Zhongxing Telecommunication Equipment (ZTE).
Graft investigators said the defendants used their influence to push for the approval of the NBN-ZTE deal despite irregularities and reports of massive bribery and cost-padding.
Covered by law
The prosecution said Arroyo’s preventive suspension is part of the procedures mandated under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act or RA 3019.
“…(T)he suspension of a public officer against whom a valid information has been filed for any offense defined and penalized under said Act…or for any offense involving fraud upon government or public funds or property, whether as a simple or as a complex offense and in whatever state of execution and mode of participation is mandatory,” it noted in the motion.
Prosecutors invoked the Supreme Court pronouncement in the case of Libanan vs Sandiganbayan that the graft court “is bound to issue an order of suspension as a matter of course, and there seems to be no ifs and buts about it.”
Arroyo is detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) on a nonbailable case of electoral sabotage pending before the Pasay City Regional Trial Court. – Rappler.com