President Benigno Aquino 3rd said his detained predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is not yet off the hook despite the Ombudsman’s dismissal of a graft case filed against her in connection with a P728-million fertilizer fund scam.
Speaking to reporters on Monday, Aquino made clear that his administration did not file the dismissed graft complaint against the former president.
“We discussed it in passing the other day. First question I asked was: ‘Did we file this?’ And the answer was: ‘We didn’t file it,’” the President said.
He noted that under his government, only three cases were filed against Arroyo. These were a plunder case in connection with alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office funds, which is pending before the Sandiganbayan; another plunder case for Arroyo’s alleged involvement in the Malampaya fund scam, which is being reviewed by the Office of the Ombudsman; and the electoral sabotage case, which is pending before a Regional Trial Court in Pasay City filed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
According to Aquino, his administration will not file a “frivolous case” and will only refile if stronger evidence is produced.
“My promise to the Filipino people has always been: We will go where the evidence points us to. We will not file a frivolous case just to harass anybody,” the President said.
“If you file a frivolous case, knowing that it’s frivolous, hindi ba parang [isn’t it like] you are guaranteeing that the person gets off scot-free because double jeopardy comes in. So my instruction has always been: Do not file until you are sure that the evidence is strong,” he added.
Meanwhile, Aquino said since the fertilizer scam case did not reach the court, another case may be filed against the former leader.
“Since there was no case filed in court, hindi pa dinismis ng Ombudsman eh [it was not dismissed by the Ombudsman]. There was no arraignment, double jeopardy doesn’t come in,” he added.
“If we are able to get the necessary evidence, to make a stronger case, then that can be refiled,” the President said
The fertilizer fund scam is the fourth case against Arroyo to be dismissed.
The former leader, who is under hospital arrest, had also been cleared of complicity in the alleged misuse of the P530-million fund of the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration, the P720 million in capital gains taxes allegedly not paid during the sale of the Iloilo Airport in 2007 and graft charges filed over certain infrastructure
projects in Camarines Sur.
The apparent good news for Arroyo, now a congresswoman representing the Second District of Pampanga province, is that the electoral-sabotage case against her might be dismissed because the government’s so-called star witness, Norie Unas, died in April.
In an interview, Comelec Senior Commissioner Lucenito Tagle said the case may be affected if the testimony of Unas is “very material” to Arroyo’s case.
Unas, a witness to the alleged fraud in the 2007 elections, was the former provincial administrator of Maguindanao province who had worked as adviser to now detained former Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr.
Tagle, a former judge of the Court of Appeals, said it is still early to speculate whether the electoral sabotage case will be dismissed by the court, noting that the hearing of the case is still ongoing at the Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC).
Under criminal law, he added, Arroyo can be acquitted if there is a “doubt created” on the case filed against her.
“That is why we need strong evidence,” Tagle said.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. also noted that the electoral-sabotage case filed by the poll body is still rolling at the Pasay RTC.
The Comelec had presented all evidence and more than 10 witnesses.