• Defend case in plea to post bail, Arroyo told

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    THE Supreme Court (SC) has ordered former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to defend her case in her plea to post bail after being charged with plunder for alleged participation in embezzling P366 million in intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) from 2008 to 2010.

    The Supreme Court (SC) en banc has issued a resolution ordering Arroyo to file a reply with the comment/opposition of the Office of the Ombudsman, which blocks her right to post bail.

    In its manifestation dated November 23, 2015, the Office of the Special Prosecutor, which is under the Office of the Ombudsman, informed the High Court “that respondent People of the Philippines filed its Comment/Opposition [with Opposition to the Application of a Temporary Restraining Order]on November 20, 2015, through registered mail.”

    The SC en banc has already accepted the comment or opposition.

    It then ordered Arroyo to reply to the comment/opposition “within 10 days from notice hereof.”

    The tribunal has extended the stay order it issued last October 20 that stopped the Sandiganbayan from trying Arroyo for plunder.

    It decided to extend the status quo ante order, which also stopped the Sandiganbayan from continuing the trial for 90 days.

    This was one of the pleas filed by the former leader last October 15 aside from her move to allow her to post bail, reverse the junking of the Sandiganbayan of her demurrer to evidence and have the case be heard for oral arguments by the SC.

    Arroyo filed the petition after the United Nations Working Group on Human Rights has ruled that the detention of Arroyo is arbitrary.

    She has sought refuge in the SC in connection with the plunder case filed against her and several others before the Sandiganbayan for approving the release of more than P365 million in Confidential/Intelligence Funds (CIF) of the PCSO during her tenure as President.

    In the petition, through her lawyer former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza, Arroyo asked the High Court to expedite proceedings and set the case for oral arguments.

    She also urged the en banc to suspend further proceedings of the case before the anti-graft court through a temporary restraining order, particularly a hearing to receive evidence of the accused by way of defense.

    Arroyo also asked the High Court “to render judgment annulling, reversing and setting aside the resolutions of April 6, 2015 and September 10, 2015 denying petitioner’s demurrer to evidence dated August 27, 2014 for having been issued with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of, or in excess of jurisdiction[.]”

    She requested the court to dismiss the criminal case against her and acquit her of the offense charged therein.

    Besides Arroyo, also charged with plunder by the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan were PCSO General Manager and Vice Chairman Rosario Uriarte; Board of Directors Manuel Morato, Jose Taruc, Raymundo Roquero and Ma. Fatima Valdes; Budget and Accounts Manager Benigno Aguas; Commission on Audit Chairman Reynaldo Villar; and former COA CIF Fraud Audit Unit head Nilda Plaras.

    JOMAR CANLAS

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