MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Tuesday, July 17, asked the Sandiganbayan to stop hearing the plunder case filed against her and suspend the issuance of an arrest warrant.
In a motion filed on her behalf by the law firm Diaz, del Rosario & Associates, Mrs Arroyo asked the anti-graft court to suspend the proceedings against her that were initiated by the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday, July 16, when it filed a plunder case against her and 9 other former government officials.
Mrs Arroyo invoked her right to appeal the Ombudsman’s resolution. Her lawyers claimed that as of Tuesday, they have yet to receive a copy of the resolution. They lamented that the news media even beat them to it.
“To date, accused GMA (Arroyo’s initials) and/or her counsel have not received any resolution from the Office of the Ombudsman, on the basis of which any Information for Plunder against accused GMA may be filed with this Honorable Court,” said lawyers Maria Rosario Z. del Rosario and Christian B. Diaz.
Arroyo and former officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) and the Commission on Audit (COA) were accused of conspiracy in defrauding the government of P365,997,915 through unlawful transfer of confidential/intelligence funds of PCSO from January 2008 to June 2010.
Charged along with Arroyo were former PCSO Board of Directors chairman Sergio O. Velancia; former PCSO general manager Rosario C. Uriarte; PCSO directors Manuel L. Morato, Jose R. Taruc V, Raymundo T. Roquero and Ma. Fatima A. S. Valdes; PCSO budget officer Benigno B. Aguas; former Commission on Audit chairman Reynaldo A. Villar and former COA-Intelligence Fund Unit head Nilda B. Plaras.
According to the 43-page resolution approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, the defendants took advantage of their positions in government to divert the PCSO funds for their personal gain and to unjustly enrich themselves.
Former COA chairman Villar and Plaras were named co-defendants for allegedly lending the fund transfers a “cloak of regularity” when they failed to question the disbursements by issuing notices of disallowance.
The case was based on the complaint filed in July 2011 by former Akbayan Rep Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, retired Brig Gen. Danilo Lim and lawyer Jaime Regalario of the group Kilusang Makabayang Ekonomiya.
Arroyo said due process requires that any proceedings be suspended to give her a chance to file a motion for reconsideration to the Ombudsman’s resolution recommending her indictment.
“Accused GMA desires to avail herself of her remedies under the law, foremost of which is the filing of a motion for reconsideration from the adverse resolution. Accused…respectfully pleads that in the meantime, this Honorable Court suspend proceedings and any further action on the said Information for Plunder …including issuance of a warrant of arrest,” her lawyers said.
Sandiganbayan Judicial Records Division chief Nelia C. Gallo said the plunder information will be raffled off to the graft court’s 5 divisions at 11 a.m. on Friday, July 20.
The raffle will be held at the Third Division courtroom and will be witnessed by magistrates of the graft court, court officers and members of the media who will be allowed to cover the event.
The division that will be chosen to conduct trial on the plunder case is going to determine if the case has any legal basis and, if it has, issue arrest warrants against the defendants.
The ex-president and incumbent Pampanga Representative is now under house arrest at the Veterans Medical Memorial Center in connection with an electoral sabotage case filed against her last year before a Pasay regional trial court.
She faces a separate graft case with the Sandiganbayan, this time in connection with the botched NBN-ZTE contract with a Chinese company. – Rappler.com
More in #ArroyoWatch:
- Sandiganbayan: Why was Arroyo released?
- Comelec to file motion against Arroyo bail
- Court grants Arroyo bail in election case
- Court bars Arroyo, ex-PCSO chair from leaving
- Arroyo, 9 others charged with plunder
- Arroyo bail feared due to ‘rushed’ case
- Ombudsman asked to file plunder case vs Arroyo
- Comelec broke rules to charge Arroyo