MANILA, Philippines – The Ombudsman-prepared graft cases against former President Gloria Arroyo were raffled on Monday to her controversial appointee, Sandiganbayan Justice Gregory Ong of the 4th division.
Arroyo appointed Ong to the Supreme Court in 2007, but the appointment was later revoked because he is not a natural-born Filipino. Sectors also questioned his eligibility to sit as Sandiganbayan Justice, but complaints did not prosper.
Aside from Ong, Justices Jose Hernandez and Maria Cristina Cornejo comprise the Sandiganbayan 4th division.
The case filed by the Office of the Ombudsman was based on the plunder complaint led by the Bayan Muna party list group in relation to the botched US$329-million government broadband contract with Chinese company ZTE Corp. It was downgraded to graft.
Despite Ong’s links to Arroyo, Bayan Muna Rep Teddy Casiño said they are giving the Justice a chance to show he can handle the cases with objectivity.
“We welcome the raffling off of the latest graft charges… and trust that Justice Ong will handle the case with objectivity and fairness despite perceptions that he is favored by GMA, having been previously nominated by her to the Supreme Court. We hope for the case’s early resolution considering it’s an open-and-shut case,” Casiño said.
Bayan Muna maintains the Ombudsman should have filed a plunder case instead of graft. “As far as plunder charges are concerned, we are still seeking clarification from the Ombudsman as to the extent of case build-up they did and what options we have in pursuing it,” Casiño said. – Rappler.com