Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. of Quezon City won’t be supporting the call of his colleagues for the Sandiganbayan to grant Christmas furlough to detained former President and now Rep. Gloria Arroyo of Pampanga.
Belmonte was referring to House Resolution 537 authored by Rep. Silvestre Bello 3rd of 1-BAP party-list—a House resolution supported by 41 other lawmakers, 12 of them belonging from the ruling Liberal Party (LP) chaired by President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
“I will keep my hands off it. It will go through the legislative mill. I certainly don’t want to stop it, but at the same time, that move can be properly addressed by the sound discretion of the court,” Belmonte told reporters.
Arroyo, a former party-mate of Belmonte under Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats, is under hospital detention in the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) because of the P366-million plunder charges that she is facing before the Sandiganbayan. The plunder case is in connection with the alleged unlawful conversion of state charity money to intelligence funds.
“Anyway, the justices do have some leeway [in granting furlough]in consideration of humanitarian grounds as cited by the House Resolution,” Belmonte, the vice chairman of the ruling LP, added.
The Speaker was referring to the inherent power of the anti-graft court to grant furlough to the accused provided that such action would conform to justice, equity and fairness.
Lawyer Anacleto Diaz, the counsel of the former President for the P366 million plunder case, earlier disclosed to The Manila Times that Arroyo is yet to decide whether she would ask for a furlough, considering that the Sandiganbayan already turned down a similar request a year ago.
“I would say we are afraid to ask for a Christmas furlough [this time]because our request for such was already denied last year. We don’t want to suffer another setback, but I am yet to be given instructions on this. She is still looking at the merits of the Christmas furlough and she still has to talk to her family,” Diaz told The Manila Times in a phone interview.
Llanesca T. Panti