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De Lima on SC's Arroyo ruling: Why wait for change in admin?

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – It appears that the acquittal of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was not a total surprise to Senator Leila de Lima, who said the possibility crossed her mind in August 2015 when then-senator Juan Ponce Enrile was granted bail.

De Lima, the justice secretary when Arroyo was charged with plunder and placed under hospital arrest in 2012, said on Tuesday, July 19, that the Supreme Court (SC) ruling was "disappointing."

The senator, who is an ally of former president Benigno Aquino III and a member of the Liberal Party (LP), also questioned the timing of the ruling – which, she clarified, she has yet to read in full.

"Ang top of mind reaction ko lang, what's happening? (My top of mind reaction is, what's happening?) These are trying times... Why did they have to wait for the change in administration to issue that ruling?" De Lima told reporters.

"And it also crossed my mind actually noon (before). Remember when the Supreme Court also granted bail to former senator Enrile? So it crossed my mind. Sabi ko, baka ang isunod nila (I said they might act next on) the case of the former president because we are seeing here situations when the Supreme Court seems to assume the role now of trier of facts."

De Lima said the SC should leave it up to the Sandiganbayan to assess the facts of cases. (READ: DOJ: Amal Clooney petition doesn't boost Arroyo case)

"Kasi 'yung Sandiganbayan several times na 'yan ni-reject that plea for bail and then demurrer to evidence," added the former justice chief.

(The Sandiganbayan rejected Arroyo's plea for bail several times, and then the demurrer to evidence.)

De Lima said she would go over the majority opinion and the dissenting opinions before commenting further on the SC ruling. (READ: TIMELINE: Gloria Arroyo – from plunder to acquittal)

In a statement sent to media after the interview, De Lima reiterated her dismay, saying that the decision was handed down "at a time when anti-corruption efforts in the Philippines have been receiving accolades from all over the world."

"While we have yet to ascertain and assess the full effect of this decision, I am 100% sure that this is demoralizing or disheartening to most of us, to say the least, as it delivers a huge blow to all our initiatives," added the senator in the statement.

The Arroyo camp, meanwhile, has said that their legal victory proves that the Aquino administration was merely "harassing its political opponents" to cover up "its gross lack of accomplishments."

The former president, now representative of the second district of Pampanga, will walk free after nearly 4 years in detention at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.

President Rodrigo Duterte's chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo welcomed the SC decision, saying, "It's about time." – Rappler.com