In a wheelchair and with a neck brace, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo finally appears at her arraignment.
The Pampanga representative is facing plunder charges before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan… accused of misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office funds.
Arroyo who is under hospital arrest, is accompanied by her family, lawyers and nurses, as she arrives 7:30 in the morning to face the court.
Her arraignment was originally set for October 15 but was moved after Arroyo was rushed to the intensive care unit a few days before.
She refuses to enter a plea as she waits for a verdict by the Supreme Court on her petition to annul the plunder trial against her.
By default, the court enters a ‘not guilty’ plea on her behalf.
Arroyo’s lawyer Raul Lambino says entering a plea means Arroyo recognizes the court.
RAUL LAMBINO, DEFENSE LAWYER
If she’s going to enter a plea of not guilty, then in effect, that would be tantamount to we can say, a recognition of the jurisdiction of the court and the jurisdiction of the findings of the Ombudsman and the action of the Ombudsman.
Arroyo refuses to speak to media and leaves Sandiganbayan by 8:50 to return to Veteran’s Memorial Medical Center.
Prosecutor Diosdado Calonge says he understands Arroyo’s decision.
DIOSDADO CALONGE, LEAD PROSECUTOR
I don’t think there is still a remedy because SC is the final arbiter and then we go to the trial on the merits if there is no TRO issued by the court.
A few hours after Arroyo’s arraignment, the Supreme Court issues a temporary restraining order for Arroyo’s co-accused, Commission on Audit’s Nilda Plaras.
The TRO stops the arrest of Plaras.
While the TRO does not cover Arroyo, her counsel Anacleto Diaz says it is a good sign.
For Diaz, it indicates a need to re-examine the issue of probable cause.
In recent interviews, President Aquino reiterates the need to bring big fish to justice.
But for now, the waiting game for this big fish continues.
Natashya Gutierrez, Rappler, Manila. – Rappler.com