‘GMA not off the hook for plunder’

President Aquino's political adviser says the administration has more cases in store for the former president

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III’s political adviser said former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is not yet off the hook for plunder because the government has more cases in store for her. 

Presidential Political Adviser Secretary Ronald Llamas said Arroyo can still face a plunder case even after the Ombudsman cleared her of the charge over the botched NBN-ZTE deal. Instead, the Office of the Ombudsman sued Arroyo for graft before the Sandiganbayan on Wednesday, Dec. 28, over the cancelled broadband network deal. 

“There are still many cases before the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice. Offhand, there is the PCSO case. Everyone clearly watched the statement of [former PCSO general manager Rosario] Uriarte saying President [Arroyo] ordered her and affixed signatures,” Llamas told reporters Friday, Dec. 30. 

“That’s an example of a clear case but we don’t know when the DOJ or Ombudsman will file it. That’s why I think there are still cases which have a big possibility to prosper.” 

Earlier this month, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office recommended the filing of plunder charges against Arroyo, and former PCSO and Commission on Audit officials for the irregular release of over P390 million from the agency’s confidential intelligence fund.  

‘Graft is graft’ 

Plunder is a graver offense compared to graft and is non-bailable. 

Llamas said the Ombudsman may have decided not to sue Arroyo for plunder because the charge is complex. “Graft is more straightforward. In plunder, there has to be a series of transactions, the amount involved is a minimum of P50 million. Maybe during the investigation, it was not clear what the actual amount was and how to file plunder if the amount is less than P50 million.” 

The secretary, however, said the Palace is not disappointed with the graft case the Ombudsman filed. 

“Graft is still graft. That has culpability. That’s impunity. That’s a major offense, especially for the highest official of the country.” 

Aside from Arroyo, the Ombudsman sued her husband, lawyer Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, former Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. and former Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza with graft. The Sandiganbayan will raffle the case on January 2. 

The former president is currently detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City in relation to a separate charge of electoral sabotage filed against her over the 2007 senatorial polls. The Pasay City Regional trial court is hearing that case.  

Aquino is bent on holding Arroyo accountable for alleged corruption during her nine-year term.  In 2010, he ran for the presidency on this campaign promise. – Rappler.com