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MANILA, Philippines -- The Sandiganbayan anti-graft court deferred on Monday the arraignment of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on plunder charges because of her medical condition.
The court, however, proceeded with the arraignment of former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office chairman Sergio Valencia and assistant manager for finance Benigno Aguas, who both pleaded not guilty.
Arroyo’s doctors at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center refused to give her clearance to leave.
She was admitted to the hospital’s intensive care unit on Friday due to a blockage in her arteries.
The court reset the arraignment of Arroyo, now Pampanga representative, and another co-accused, former PCSO director Manuel Morato, to October 29 but her lawyer, Anacleto Diaz, appealed to the court for a later date.
Morato is also confined in the same hospital.
Sandiganbayan spokesman Renato Bocar, in a television interview, explained: “Their arraignment was reset to October 29 which, according to the court, would give them sufficient time to secure from the Supreme Court any temporary restraining order.”
The anti-graft court was also expected to resolve a motion filed by Arroyo’s lawyer to allow her to remain under hospital arrest at the VMMC and undergo tests at the Heart Center.
The charges filed by the Office of the Ombudsman alleged that from January 2008 to June 2010, Arroyo and her co-accused diverted funds from the PCSO’s operations fund to the Confidential/Intelligence Funds, which are accessible with few restrictions.
Plunder is deemed a capital offense and is non-bailable.
Arroyo also faces a graft case before the Sandiganbayan for the botched national broadband network deal with China’s ZTE Corp. and an electoral sabotage case before the Pasay City Regional Trial Court for which she is out on bail.
Aside from Valencia, Aguas and Morato, Arroyo’s other co-accused in the plunder case are PCSO General Manager Rosario Uriarte; Raymundo Roquero, Jose Taruc V and Ma. Fatima Valdes; former COA Chairman Reynaldo Villar and COA Region V head Nilda Paras.