Arroyo retained as lead defendant in P366-M suit

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THE Sandiganbayan denied a separate trial for former president and now Rep. Gloria Arroyo of Pampanga, and kept her as lead defendant in the P366-million Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) plunder scam.

In an eight-page resolution promulgated on Friday, the Sandiganbayan First Division ruled that the ailing lawmaker could not be granted with a trial on her own because the Office of the Ombudsman is yet to present their defense.

According to Arroyo’s lawyer Anacleto Diaz, Arroyo should be given her own trial because the circumstances charged in her case are different from her co-accused who are former PCSO executives.

The defense said that Arroyo had been indicted in approving the additional request for the intelligence fund, unlike her co-accused who allocated, disbursed and liquidated the cash.

Despite this, the Sandiganbayan ruled otherwise.

“After a solicitous assessment of the circumstances of this case, the court finds and so holds that a separate trial for accused Arroyo is not justified,” the resolution read.

It pointed out that even if Arroyo stand “at the opposing side of the rope” compared with the PCSO officials, her signature in approving the release of the intelligence fund “is material in their determination of their [other defendants]culpability.”

“In fact, her co-accused considered her signature to be an approval for the release of the intelligence fund which shows that her co-accused also anchors on the significance of that signature for their defenses,” the resolution read.

It added that to group Arroyo with the other defendants will not slow down her trial because her proceedings are not dependent on the presence of her co-accused.

The Sandiganbayan magistrates reminded the defense that the hearing for petition for bail has just wrapped up, which showed that there is no delay in the proceedings.

“The proceedings are moving as it should. The records will bear out that this case is barren of unnecessary delays,” the ruling read, adding that prosecutors are yet to present its evidence in chief.

The anti-graft court magistrates added that should they allow Arroyo a separate trial, it would only duplicate the presentation of evidence which might drag the trial and “burden both the court and the parties.”

The court said that Arroyo’s argument for delay was a “baseless apprehension” since it is mere “conjectural and not comparable to the comprehensible delay a separate trial will cause to this proceedings.”

Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz penned the resolution, concurred in by Associate Justices Rodolfo Ponferrada and Rafael Lagos.

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