Arroyo on plunder: Give us a break

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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But the Ombudsman asked the court to immediately issue an arrest warrant against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

WALKING FREE. Lawyers of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo say she just wants a break after 8 months in hospital detention. Photo from the office of Rep Arroyo

MANILA, Philippines – It’s all she wants after having walked free from an 8-month hospital arrest. 

Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s lawyers on Thursday, July 26, argued their client’s motion to suspend proceedings and the issuance of a warrant of arrest for her P366-M plunder case before the Sandiganbayan.

It was the first time the Sandiganbayan heard the plunder case involving the alleged misuse of funds from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

“Give us a break,” her lawyer Anacleto Diaz told the court, referring to Mrs Arroyo’s release from hospital arrest on Wednesday, July 25.

The Ombudsman however asked the court to immediately issue an arrest warrant against Mrs Arroyo.

Her lawyers cited the limitations set by her hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, such as the ban on using laptops and communication devices.

“How do we bring back the 8 months that she was deprived of liberty?” Diaz told the Sandiganbayan First Division.

Her lawyers said a suspension of proceedings will allow Mrs Arroyo and her counsels to prepare better. 

A suspension will allow her, in particular, to file a motion for reconsideration to the Ombudsman’s resolution recommending her indictment, her lawyers said. “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,” their motion read.

Besides, Diaz said the former President is barred from traveling and “has effectively applied her person to this court’s jurisdiction” by filing motions.

No ’emotional’ arguments

But a private prosecutor with the Ombudsman, Lorna Kapunan, said “we cannot use such emotional arguments in this case.”

She cited the gravity of plunder. “So serious is the charge of plunder that the right to bail is suspended,” Kapunan noted, adding a warrant of arrest should have been issued already.

In an interview with Rappler after the hearing, Kapunan said her camp wants to proceed with the case precisely to give Mrs Arroyo a “break,” as her lawyers said.

“Consistent with giving her a break, precisely, is the right to a speedy trial. The best break we can give the President and all the accused is to end the hardship. If they are innocent, let them be declared innocent. If they’re guilty, let them be declared guilty. They should, in fact, invoke the right to a speedy trial. That is the only way that they can give the President a break,” Kapunan explained. (Watch video below.)

Mrs Arroyo’s lawyers, however, have questioned Kapunan’s presence before the court, citing her lack of “personality” to represent the people of the Philippines in the case. Kapunan, on the other hand, asserted the case involves public funds and she, as a taxpayer, has the right to represent the complainants.

The court said Mrs Arroyo’s motion is now up for resolution, and gave the prosecution and the defense 5 days to submit their memoranda. Then the court will decide if the plunder case shall already proceed and Mrs Arroyo will be arrested anew.  

On Wednesday, the Sandiganbayan said Mrs Arroyo shouldn’t have been released from VMMC due to her pending plunder case.

Her plunder case – on top of her electoral sabotage case and separate graft charges – is viewed as the strongest suit against Mrs Arroyo. Her electoral sabotage case is “weak,” according to critics, as seen in how the case’s strongest witness left the court unconvinced. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email