DESPITE an “overwhelming” majority in favor of the acquittal of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from a plunder charge, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is expected to try to block the move, Supreme Court sources have told The Manila Times.
Sereno is said to be concerned over keeping her job and allegedly wants Arroyo, an ally of President Rodrigo Duterte, to help make sure she is not impeached by Congress, the sources said.
“Para makuha ang boto ni Sereno at para hindi niya harangin at i-dribble ang acquittal ni President Arroyo, ang gusto ni Sereno kausapin ni GMA si President Duterte na huwag siyang patalsikin bilang Chief Justice [To get Sereno’s vote and for Sereno not to block or delay the acquittal of President Arroyo, Sereno wants GMA to tell President Duterte not to remove her as Chief Justice],” the source claimed.
Duterte has openly admitted that Arroyo is his friend and had in fact offered to pardon the former President. But the latter declined, saying it would be tantamount to admitting guilt.
Arroyo insists that she is innocent in the non-bailable plunder charge for the alleged embezzlement of P366 million in intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office from 2008 to 2010.
“How can Sereno make that [kind of]bargaining? She is only one vote in the Supreme Court [even if she is the]Chief Justice. The problem is she can delay the case by asking for several postponements by asking to ‘call again’ the case,” the Supreme Court (SC) source said.
The deliberations and possible voting of the Supreme Court magistrates on the Arroyo plunder case will take place on July 19, a regular en banc session of the High Court.
Sources earlier told The Manila Times that an overwhelming majority of justices will concur with the draft ponencia of Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin acquitting Arroyo via a demurrer to evidence.
Once Arroyo wins in the High Court, it will order her “release from detention” from the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.
Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, meanwhile, has circulated his dissenting opinion opposing the acquittal.
Sereno and Leonen are known allies in the SC, with ties going back to the University of the Philippines College of Law.
A demurrer to evidence can be sought when the accused pleads for the dismissal of the charges after the prosecution has presented its evidence and rested its case.
Defendant Arroyo no longer presented evidence before the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court on the belief that the prosecution, headed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, presented insufficient evidence.
The Sandiganbayan rejected Arroyo’s demurrer last year, and this ruling was brought to the Supreme Court for review.
Granting the demurrer will have the effect of acquitting Arroyo, and the case cannot be refiled anymore by the Ombudsman under the principle of “double jeopardy.”