Court stops plunder hearing vs Arroyo

Rappler.com
(UPDATED) Sandiganbayan says it will not issue arrest warrant against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and asks Ombudsman to act on Arroyo's motion for reconsideration

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Sandiganbayan on Friday, July 27, decided to stop hearing the plunder case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, ordering the Ombudsman to respond to her motion for reconsideration.

In a decision, the court also said it will not issue an arrest warrant against Mrs Arroyo, according to Rappler sources in the Sandiganbayan.

This means that the court ruled in favor of an earlier motion filed by Mrs Arroyo that the Sandiganbayan suspend further proceedings on the plunder case and not issue a warrant against her pending an appeal she filed with the Ombudsman.

The court’s first division held a hearing on this matter Thursday, July 26. In that hearing, the Ombudsman asked the court to immediately issue a warrant against the former president.

FAVORABLE RULING. The Sandiganbayan, before which former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo faces graft charges (in photo), rules in Mrs Arroyo's favor in connection with a plunder case. File photo from AFP

But in its 6-page resolution Friday, the Sandiganbayan’s first division said that the Ombudsman should address the motion for reconsideration that the Arroyo camp filed with the Ombudsman on July 25.

It’s a technical matter because the Arroyo camp filed a motion for reconsideration with the Ombudsman, according to a lawyer we consulted to explain.

Arroyo’s lawyers complained in their motion that they got a copy of the plunder case filed against the former president and 9 other ex-public officials only on July 20. The Office of the Ombudsman filed the suit July 16, while Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales signed the resolution recommending the filing of the plunder complaint as early as July 13, the lawyers said.

The Sandiganbayan also decided to strike out from court records the statements of Lorna Kapunan, a private prosecutor representing one of the complainants in the plunder case.

During Thursday’s hearing, Mrs Arroyo’s lawyers questioned Kapunan’s presence before the court due to her lack of “personality” to represent the people of the Philippines in the case. In an interview, however, Kapunan noted the case involves public funds, and she, as a tax payer, has a right to represent the complainants.

Kapunan asserted the case should proceed in line with Mrs Arroyo’s right to a speedy trial. (Watch more in the video below)

The court’s ruling removes the likelihood of Arroyo’s return to detention, a scenario that was first raised when the Ombudsman asked for the issuance of an arrest warrant against her.

A Pasay court on July 25 ordered the release of Mrs Arroyo after she posted a P1-M bail in an electoral sabotage case filed against her in November 2011. The Pasay court found the evidence presented by the Commission on Elections against her weak.

On the same day, Arroyo’s lawyers went to the Ombudsman to file a motion for reconsideration regarding the plunder case, a non-bailable offense.

The Ombudsman’s plunder suit accuses Arroyo and 9 other former public officials of misusing the charity funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office during the latter years of her administration. – Rappler.com

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