Arroyo acquittal, Marcos burial mark 2016

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BESIDES the regular typhoons and floods, President Rodrigo Duterte’s landslide win in the May 9 presidential polls and his order to bury former President Ferdinand Marcos dominated the news in the Philippines in 2016. Duterte won via a wide margin or more than 16 million votes ahead of his closest rival, former Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd.

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Last July, the Supreme Court (SC) acquitted former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of plunder in an 11-4 vote. The SC ruling was immediately executory, leading to the release of Arroyo after a four-year detention at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center since 2012. Arroyo’s demurrer to evidence in connection with the alleged misuse of intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) was granted by the tribunal, holding that the prosecution had presented insufficient evidence.

President Duterte walks with Pampanga Gov. Lilia Pineda and former President Gloria Arroyo as they make their way to the stage during the Convergence of Nanay Volunteers as Community Drugwatch held at the Parade ground of Clark Field, Angeles City, Pampanga. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

She thanked Duterte and the SC after winning her plea to effectively dismiss her plunder case. (Duterte had said during the campaign period that if elected, he would release Arroyo from detention.) The former chief executive was sued for the questionable release of P366 million in PCSO intelligence funds during her last two years in office. When she obtained her freedom, Arroyo, who retained her post as Pampanga Representative, eventually became a House deputy speaker.

Marcos burial and Bongbong election protest
After a few months later or last November, the SC found no legal impediment against Marcos’ burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB). With a 9 to 5 vote, the majority of the 15-man tribunal allowed a hero’s burial for the late dictator. The same had sparked several days of protests after Marcos was secretly buried at the LNMB. In the meantime, Former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., son of the late President, has filed before the Supreme Court, as Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), an election protest against Vice-President Leonor Robredo.

Marcos, who lost to Robredo by only 263,473 votes, accused her of “massive electoral fraud, anomalies, and irregularities,” such as pre-shading of ballots, pre-loaded Secure Digital cards, misreading of ballots, malfunctioning VCMs or vote counting machines, and an “abnormally high” unaccounted votes/undervotes for the position of VP.

The Manila Times exposes bribery on Poe case
The disqualification case against Sen. Grace Poe had been an event before the Supreme Court. The High Court stood pat with its 9 against 6 ruling, declaring Poe as a natural-born Filipino citizen despite claims that she couldn’t be considered as one because she was a foundling.

It can be recalled that in a vote of 9-6 in its March 8 deliberations, the High Tribunal had set aside the Comelec ruling canceling her COC, saying the poll body had committed grave abuse of discretion in its decision against Poe.

The SC majority ruling, penned by Perez, points out to high probability that Poe is a natural-born Filipino, relying heavily on the circumstantial evidence presented by the senator’s camp and the statistics presented by then-Solicitor General Florin Hilbay during the oral arguments.

This senior reporter of The Manila Times was ordered by the SC to explain via a Show Cause order after exposing the alleged bribery incident before the SC justices. Said story, which is the subject of the High Court’s investigation, appeared on the front page of this paper on March 8, 2016, with the headline “Justices offered P50-million bribe to disqualify Poe—sources.”

Corona passes away
After the controversial impeachment case against Chief Justice Renato Corona, in 2012, he passed away at the age of 67, last April 29. He died after succumbing to cardiac arrest. He was supposed to stay in his post until Oct. 19, 2018, but the impeachment case prodded by the LP caused his ouster from office.

Corona was the 23rd chief justice of Supreme Court of the Philippines after being appointed by Arroyo on April 9, 2002 as associate justice. He became chief justice on May 12, 2010. He was the first chief justice to fight the impeachment case initiated by the Aquino administration that reached the Senate for trial.

JBC, chief justice’s clipping power unconstitutional
The SC en banc later declared as unconstitutional and illegal the powers of Sereno and the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), clipping the power of the President of the Philippines in making appointments.

Upon deliberations, the magistrates unanimously declared void JBC’s clustering of the shortlist of nominees for all positions in the judiciary. The seven-man council is constitutionally mandated to screen and vet nominees being submitted to the President for vacant posts in the judiciary and the Offices of the Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsman.

PNoy’s last SC appointee; Duterte has 2 in 2017
Benjamin Caguioa notched the Supreme Court associate justice position, the last appointee of Aquino to the High Court. Caguioa got the top votes from the JBC. Aquino signed the appointment of Caguioa on Jan. 20, 2016. In the meantime, Duterte will have two appointees in view of the two posts vacated in 2016.

The first SC position, which shall be the first appointee of Duterte, has been officially declared vacant. This after Perez stepped down from his post last Dec. 14 after 45 years of service in the SC, for which he rose from the ranks. Four Court of Appeals (CA) justices and one Sandiganbayan magistrate notched the shortlist of the JBC in the first vacancy for the Perez post.

Next for Duterte’s appointment is the post vacated by Justice Arturo Brion, who retired on Dec. 28.

‘Narco judges’ cleared
After several days, it was learned that Sereno pushed for the exoneration of the judges whose names were mentioned by Duterte in his controversial “narco list.” The SC in the end issued a resolution terminating the fact-finding investigation against Judge Exequil Dagala of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court in Dapa-Socorro, Surigao del Norte; Judge Adriano Savillo of Iloilo City Regional Trial Court, Branch 30; and Judge Domingo Casiple, of Kalibo, Aklan Regional Trial Court, Branch 7. It said there was no evidence that said judges are, indeed, involved in illegal drugs.

De Lima indicted for obstruction of justice
The Department of Justice(DOJ) has indicted Sen. Leila De lima last December in connection with the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) illegal drug trade, for being part in hiding her driver-lover Ronnie Dayan, a suspected drug personality. The lady senator was charged for her text message to Dayan to snub the summons of the House of Representatives (HOR) in connection with its probe into the NBP illegal drug trade, and for him to go into hiding.

In the meantime, the charges for drug trafficking is next to explode for De Lima in 2017. The DOJ panel of prosecutors has already concluded its first preliminary investigation against the lady senator. Subpoenas were issued by the panel of prosecutors against De Lima and the other accused in the two complaints filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), the National Bureau of Investigation and the two former NBI Deputy Directors Reynaldo Esmeralda and Ruel Lasala.

De Lima and the other respondents were specifically charged with violation of Section 5 (sale and trading of illegal drugs) in relation to Section 26 (b) (conspiracy) of RA 9165.

P50M extortion scandal
Another story that shook the judiciary was the Jack Lam bribery extortion scandal involving two Bureau of Immigration (BI) deputy commissioners along with three others. The DOJ issued a lookout bulletin order (LBO) against Al Argosino and Michael Robles, who were tagged in the P50-million extortion controversy. Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd came out with the order against Argosino and Robles, to monitor their whereabouts when they decide to go abroad.

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