• GMA house arrest divides lawmakers

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    Lawmakers have invoked fairness both in backing and opposing proposed house arrest for former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo, who is under hospital detention pending a P366-million plunder case lodged against her.

    They made the appeal during Wednesday’s hearing on House Resolution 1908 principally authored by 1-BAP party-list Silvestre Bello.
    The resolution urges the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to grant house arrest to the former President for humanitarian considerations.

    “The theory of the prosecution is conspiracy. When you say conspiracy, the crime of one is the crime of all. But her other co-accused in the case were granted bail. Having said that, I can’t understand why the Sandiganbayan has denied her bail [petition]. That’s being unfair,” Bello, a lawyer and a former Justice secretary, pointed out.

    Bello was referring to former Commission on Audit (CoA) Chairman Reynaldo Villar, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office Chairman Sergio Valencia, and PCSO Directors Manuel Morato, Raymundo Roquero and Jose Taruc 5th, who were all granted bail by the Sandiganbayan’s First Division.

    Only Arroyo and PCSO budget and accounts manager Benigno Aguas remain in detention.

    Bello said there is no reason to keep the Pampanga lawmaker under hospital arrest because the former leader is frail and, as such, not a flight risk.

    “The purpose of denying bail is to ensure the presence of the accused in the trial and that he or she is properly penalized. But considering her physical condition, where is she going to go? Her doctors said that aside from physical illness, she is suffering from psychosomatic complications and that house arrest might be good for her because of moral support from her family,” he argued.

    “This is why I ask the members of the committee to adopt this House Resolution 1908, in the spirit of mercy and compassion as espoused by Pope Francis,” Bello said.

    But Akbayan party-list Rep. Ibarra Gutierrez countered that keeping the former President under house arrest is the true testament of fairness since there are hundreds, or even thousands of other detainees across the country who are suffering from deteriorating health.

    “There are other detainees who are also suffering from various medical conditions. If we are going to do this for someone who has occupied public office, we should review other similar case, too. Otherwise, this will serve as a privilege,” Gutierrez said.

    “The former President is well taken care of in the hospital and she has a battery of lawyers who can represent her in court, even before the United Nations. If Congress would bend over backwards to accommodate one of its own, it will turn a blind eye to others,” he added.

    But for Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe, the hospital arrest for the former President has become too costly for the government and is draining resources of the Veterans Memoral Medical Center where Arroyo is held.

    “We spend much for her detention in Veterans and the hospital’s resources are spent on her [that are]better spent for other patients.

    Since her co-accused have been granted bail, she should be, at least[granted]house arrest,” Batocabe said in a separate interview.

    “She has been detained long enough. This [house arrest]is for administration of justice. As it is, it just looks political,” he added.

    The House justice panel led by Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. is expected to vote on the resolution in its next meeting.

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