MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on Tuesday, July 1, ordered the 90-day suspension of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as representative of Pampanga in relation to the graft charges filed against her over a botched telecommunications contract during her presidency.
Arroyo has been ordered to “cease and desist from performing and/or exercising the functions and duties, as well as receiving and/or enjoying the salaries, benefits, privileges of her present public position or any other public office or position he (sic) may now or hereafter be holding…for a period of ninety days.”
Sandiganbayan insiders told Rappler the court already issued the suspension order to House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr and Mrs Arroyo, who is under hospital arrest at the Veterans Medical Memorial Center in Quezon City.
Sought for comment, Belmonte said, “We’re studying the precedents.”
The court orders the House Speaker to report within 5 days what action has been taken by the chamber.
Earlier, government prosecutors led by Prosecutor Jacinto dela Cruz Jr asked the court to suspend Arroyo following the 3 counts of graft filed against her and other former public officials for the failed national broadband network project of the government with the Chinese firm NBN-ZTE.
The prosecutors maintained that a public official facing graft charges should be suspended from holding public office.
The graft charges against Mrs Arroyo were filed in December 2011.
The charges against the former president involve violations of Sections 3-G and 3-I of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act 3019) as well as provisions of the Code of Conduct of and Ethical Standards of Government Officials and Employees (RA 6713).
Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr, former Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza, and former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo were also named in one of the graft charges.
The cases were based on plunder complaints earlier filed before the Ombudsman by former Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño, former Gabriela Women’s Party Representative Liza Maza, and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) chairperson Carol Araullo.
The Ombudsman, however, only approved the filing of graft charges.
Unlike plunder, graft is a bailable offense. Bail has been set at P70,000 for former President Arroyo, and a total of P30,000 for all her co-accused. – Rappler.com
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