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MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE 4, 4:00p.m.) A special police unit proceeded Thursday afternoon to the Sandiganbayan to work out with the sheriff the arrest of former President now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as the antigraft body rejected her lawyers’ oral motion to defer issuance of the warrant it issued earlier, for the P366-million PCSO plunder case.
The unit from the Criminal Investigation Detection Group (CIDG) went to the Sandiganbayan after the court's first division ordered the arrest of Mrs. Arroyo over the alleged misuse of P366-million Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office intelligence funds.
Presiding Justice Efren Dela Cruz signed and issued the arrest order 3 p.m. Wednesday. Nine others - former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte, Sergio Valencia, Manuel Morato, Raymundo Roquero, Jose Taruc V, Ma. Fatima Valdes, former Commission on Audit chairman Reynaldo Villar, COA Region V head Nilda Plaras, and PCSO assistant general manager for finance Benigno Aguas - were charged with Arroyo.
Earlier, Arroyo had filed a motion for judicial determination of probable cause.
In his motion, Arroyo’s lawyer Anacleto Diaz asked the anti-graft court to direct the Office of the Ombudsman to produce the original resolution of the panel that conducted the preliminary investigation on the case.
Based on the complaint, the accused conspired in withdrawing, amassing, accumulating public funds worth over P300 million from July 2007 to January 2010.
It may be recalled that this was the first plunder case filed against Arroyo.
The warrant came out after Arroyo filed her certificate of candidacy Wednesday through her son Juan Miguel “Mikey” for re-election at the local office of the Commission on Elections in San Fernando, Pampanga.
Last July 25, Arroyo was released from detention at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City after posting a P1-million bail related to her case of electoral sabotage before a Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC).
If found guilty of the non-bailable offense, the accused may be sentenced to reclusion perpetua or a jail term from 20 years and a day to 40 years.
CIDG coordinating with sheriff on arrest
As of 3 pm Thursday, elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) were on their way to Sandiganbayan to coordinate for the possible arrest of Representative Arroyo.
CIDG-NCR chief Sr. Supt. Joel Coronel left Camp Crame at around 3 p.m for Sandiganbayan. He said he would be coordinating with the court sheriff to determine how the arrest will go.
Arroyo is reportedly still at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC).
Issue hold order, Guingona asks court
Relatedly, Senator Teofisto Guingona III asked the Sandiganbayan to immediately issue a hold departure order against Mrs. Arroyo to ensure her appearance in a series of cases filed in Court.
“It has been proven in several occasions that Mrs. Arroyo has a penchant to invent reasons to justify her grand plan to leave the country and escape prosecution for her crimes,” Guingona said.
He said that justice should be served immediately so the Filipinos can move forward and correct the mistakes of the past.
“I am hoping the truth will come out and justice is served immediately. In order for the Filipinos to move forward, it is only fitting that we correct the mistakes of the past,” he argued.
Guingona added that the arrest warrant against the former president in relation to the PCSO fund scam only proves that the evidence presented in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Report on the PCSO fund scam are strong, concrete and sufficient.
Blue-Ribbon report provided evidence
Guingona also said that with the collective efforts of his colleagues in the Senate for the completion of the Blue Ribbon Report that was submitted to the Office of Ombudsman last December 2011, the case should be a strong warning against mishandling the peoples’ money.
“We must remember that Mrs. Arroyo has never denied her participation in the approval of huge amounts of money on this case. Her marginal notes of approval are on record, clearly affirmed and testified to by Rosario Uriarte, former General Manager of the PCSO,” he explained.
The former president herself has not denied her participation in the release of huge funds of money in the guise of intelligence funds. In Section 13 of the Bill of Rights, when evidence of guilt is strong in offenses punishable by reclusion perpetua, bail cannot be granted, said Guingona.
Revilla invokes humanitarian grounds
Meanwhile, Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., president of Lakas-CMD, appealed to the Sandigabayan for humanitarian considerations on the motion for reconsideration filed by her lawyer against the warrant.
“I understand that the former President’s lawyers have already filed a motion for reconsideration for the Court to reconsider the warrant. I hope the First Division looks into the humanitarian considerations surrounding CGMA in deciding the MR,” he said.
Revilla expressed belief that the former chief executive is not a flight risk, and is in fact facing all the charges levelled against her in the proper courts.
“She is currently battling a serious ailment that threatens her life. I believe that these alone should merit the Court’s attention,” he said.
“We are also appealing to the administration to join us in this call. Pagkakataon ito para ipakita ng Malakanyang ang ‘di pagiging benggatibo,” he concluded. With Abigail Kwok and Karl John Reyes, InterAksyon.com