Giannis Antetokounmpo

Arroyo fights suspension
Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo tells the court her suspension would adversely affect the interests of her constituents in Pampanga

Former Philippine president Gloria Arroyo (C), surrounded by police officers, waves to photographers as she arrives to appear in court for her arraignment in Pasay City, February 23, 2012. AFP photo/Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines – Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has asked the Sandiganbayan’s fourth division to junk a motion by government prosecutors seeking her suspension as a member of the House of Representatives.

She said her suspension would adversely affect the interests of her constituents in the second congressional district of Pampanga.

In her 27-page opposition, Mrs Arroyo pointed out that suspension under the provisions of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act is not intended as a penalty but simply to prevent a public official from using the power of his or her position to intimidate or influence witnesses or to tamper with evidence to frustrate prosecution for a crime.

For this reason, defense lawyers Estelito Mendoza, Ma. Claudette A. dela Cerna and Francis H. Tuliao, argued that the specific objective is to “uphold public interest over the private interest of the official sought to be suspended.”

The defense noted that the Pampanga lawmaker is already incarcerated and detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center.

“(T)o suspend her is to deprive the sovereign people of the Second District of Pampanga representation in the House of Representatives. What public purpose, indeed, would be served by the suspension of the accused because of the charge filed in the instant case?” they said.

Arroyo was indicted on two counts of graft and one count of violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees in connection with allegations of having made unlawful intervention to push for the approval of the US$329-M proposal of Chinese firm, ZTE Inc., to undertake the national broadband network project.

Arroyo has already been arraigned last April 11 along with her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo and former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. All 3 pleaded not guilty. –