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Graft court denies Arroyo's motion for separate trial

MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan’s First Division has denied a motion filed by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo seeking a separate trial for her plunder case.

Three Associate Justices — Efren N. de la Cruz, Rafael R. Lagos and Rodolfo A. Ponferrada — unanimously decided that holding separate proceedings for her plunder case relative to conspiracy allegations will be chaotic and even delay resolution of the case.

Arroyo is being accused of conspiring with officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and the Commission on Audit in the mishandling of public funds worth P366 million.

Arroyo’s lawyers on Wednesday, August 14, said she is entitled to a speedy trial. Lawyers Anacleto Diaz and Analene Balisong said prosecutors should present all evidence against her in separate proceedings so that a decision could immediately be reached on whether or not she is guilty of misusing the PCSO funds.

Intertwined

The Sandiganbayan also said the involvement of all the accused in the conversion of PCSO operating funds into confidential intelligence funds (CIF) has to be established during trial proper.

Holding a separate trial, the court said, will be confusing since the actions of each defendant are closely intertwined.

Arroyo, the graft court said, “was charged in conspiracy with her co-accused and her participation is intertwined and cannot be detached from them.…they were said to have worked for a common end – the release of the CIF.”

Unfair detention

The lawyers of the former president argued that none of the 29 witnesses listed in the prosecution’s pre-trial brief and 230 documentary exhibits can directly link Arroyo to any criminal act.

These are all in relation to PCSO operational transactions, which Arroyo is not privy to, the lawyers said. Thus, it will be unfair to require her to remain in detention while waiting for the prosecution to complete its presentation.

The court said however the arguments are based on “baseless apprehensions” since having just one trial for all accused does not automatically equate to a prolonged trial. – Rappler.com