DOJ: Amal Clooney petition doesn't boost Arroyo case
MANILA, Philippines – Former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's "flamboyant gesture" of using a celebrity lawyer before an international body "only reflects the paucity of her cries of political persecution."
This is according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who insisted that the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan is not beholden to her boss President Benigno Aquino III in trying Arroyo's plunder case.
Aquino is a known Arroyo critic who won the presidency in 2010 on the backbone of an anti-corruption campaign. His presidential speeches often allude to his predecessor's alleged corrupt practices.
"[T]he Aquino administration is not responsible for the fact that the judiciary does not subscribe to her claim that her continued detention is a result of political persecution. The judiciary remains independent of the Executive," De Lima said in a press statement Wednesday, March 11.
De Lima said the Philippine government has yet to be notified of the case.
Through renowned international human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, Mrs Arroyo petitioned the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) in relation to her continued hospital detention despite repeated appeals for her liberty.
The confidential file is now with the commission's Working Group on Involuntary and Arbitrary Detention.
De Lima said issues in Arroyo's case are "neither made grander nor more dramatic merely because they are raised by a celebrity lawyer before an international forum."
Clooney, wife of Hollywood star George Clooney, described Arroyo's detention as "unfair." It was reported that she filed the petition as a "human rights claim."
Mrs Arroyo was charged with plunder for conspiring with other government officials to misuse P365.9 million in confidential/intelligence funds of state-run Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) at a time when the government firm was in deficit.
When she ran for the presidency in 2004, she was also accused of cheating her way to victory in the "Hello, Garci" scandal that prompted allies and Cabinet members to withdraw support from her.
De Lima said Arroyo should have first exhausted all possible domestic legal remedies before running to the UNHCHR to challenge her hospital detention.
Arroyo is "not without recourse to pursue whatever relief she feels she is entitled to, whether to move for medical treatment abroad before the Sandiganbayan, or to continue questioning before the Supreme Court the denial of her motion for bail," said De Lima.
Plunder is a non-bailable offense but bail may be granted upon proper showing that there is no strong evidence for Arroyo's guilt, which the Sandiganbayan First Division ruled was not the case.
"In the end, we believe that the denial of Rep. Arroyo's motion for bail was decided on the merits, and that she will eventually be convicted or acquitted on the merits," De Lima said.
Arroyo's lawyer Modesto Ticman earlier argued that the claim before the UNHCHR is their camp's last resort.
In Arroyo's July 2 plea for bail, her lawyers cite a psychological assessment report, saying hospital confinement is "not conducive" for her "speedy recuperation" from “multilevel cervical spondylosis” or the wearing of the bones.
A more "holistic approach" involving "family support, emotional stability and spiritual upliftment" is needed in her treatment, her doctor claims.
He recommended that the former president be allowed "unrestricted mobility, interactive lifestyle, engagement in her usual daily routine, performance of her usual activities as a public servant."
Still, De Lima said that even international human rights standards recognize that a detention order issued by the court with due process is "a valid cause for restraining one's liberty."
Arroyo's Filipino lawyers had argued that there was a double standard when the court granted the petitions for bail of her co-accused in the plunder of the PCSO funds.
Plunder, her camp argued, involved conspiracy. This would mean that the act of one is the act of all.
"Those similarly situated must be similarly dealt with. Why the refusal to allow bail to accused PGMA?" her motion read.
Arroyo, for her part, said she acted in "good faith" in approving the disbursement requests. – Rappler.com