• Injustice and unkindness at the Sandiganbayan

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    This article is supposed to be about Vatican journalist John Allen Jr.’s talk about Pope Francis. But this writer feels obliged to defer the three-part column for another subject that should also concern godly readers: the Sandiganbayan’s unkind and unlawful treatment of former President Gloria Arroyo.

    Last week the antigraft court denied her petition for a few day’s home stay for her April 5 birthday, despite physicians’ testimony that rest, comfort and time with family and friends away from detention would improve her deteriorating health. This is unjust, unkind and un-Christian.

    The nation should not just accept this injustice and unkindness toward an ailing human being. Then it becomes party to the abuse, as it was under dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

    Filipinos then accepted rampant rights violations, including the jailing of oppositionist Benigno Aquino, Jr.

    The Sandiganbayan judges should have allowed Arroyo the birthday furlough to help her health, since it would not violate the sole aim of denying bail for capital offenses: to prevent the flight of suspects likely to be convicted due to strong evidence.

    To repeat: jail without bail is intended only to prevent escape, not to punish the accused, who are presumed innocent. If there is minimal chance of flight, bail should be granted.

    There is nil chance of Arroyo fleeing; police can easily secure her at La Vista Subdivision, as they do alleged pork barrel operator Janet Lim Napoles on her reported morning ablutions at a house near her Laguna detention. Moreover, the plunder case against Arroyo is flimsy, so she has no reason to jump bail.

    Detention sans bail, evidence and trial
    Plunder requires that offenders got at least P50 million in illicit gains. But in the preliminary investigation of the purportedly purloined intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstake Office, the Ombudsman’s first team of lawyers found that none of the accused got any PCSO money. Zero. So the panel ruled that there was no plunder.

    Also rubbish was Arroyo’s previous no-bail case: the electoral sabotage charge rushed by the Commission on Elections and the Pasay City court. In November 2011, the Supreme Court restrained the Department of Justice travel ban on the former First Couple. But as President Benigno Aquino 3rd wanted and despite her lawyer’s oath to follow court decisions, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima still stopped Arroyo flying to Singapore to seek treatment.

    Then the joint Comelec-DOJ investigation into the 2007 elections, itself questionable for linking the non-partisan Commission with an administration agency, promptly submitted its mammoth report to Aquino’s former election lawyer, Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes.

    He and most of his fellow commissioners approved the immediate filing of electoral sabotage charges in just over a day. And within hours of receiving voluminous stacks of case material, the Pasay court ordered the hospital-bound Arroyo arrested.

    Better late than never, Judge Jesus Mupas saw through the Comelec charges in July 2012, nine months after detaining Arroyo. He heard that the only thing against her was the uncorroborated claim by former Maguindanao Provincial Administrator Norie Unas that he overheard her talk about poll cheating. There weren’t even any of the dubious vote tallies needed to show poll fraud.

    Moreover, Unas, one of the principal accused for the Maguindanao Massacre of 56 people in 2009, admitted that he made his statement after being promised immunity from prosecution. Whether in mass murder, election fraud or pork barrel cases, it’s easy to imagine what people would say just to avoid life in prison.

    After Judge Mupas granted bail, Aquino-appointed Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales moved to file her own unbailable charge of plunder. As noted earlier, the OMB’s own preliminary investigation found no plunder, since none of the accused got PCSO money illicitly. But former High Court justice Morales got another investigating panel to give her the ruling she wanted.

    Arroyo also filed for bail in the plunder case, but was denied despite the OMB’s first finding, which was hidden from the court and defense lawyers. Meanwhile, both electoral sabotage and plunder trials are slow. After all, why should the administration hurry proceedings if weak evidence would just acquit Arroyo?

    Indeed, in its scramble for testimony, the government tried to enlist respected former PCSO chairman Sergio Valencia, “but he says he cannot lie,” Philippine Star columnist Babes Romualdez recounted.

    The state may not endanger anyone
    Religious and political leaders have rightly urged more humane treatment of Arroyo, calling for compassion and respect toward a former head of state. Even her erstwhile critics, former president Joseph Estrada, Archbishop Oscar Cruz, and Jesus Is Lord head Eddie Villanueva, visited her last Christmas, and Cruz called for a holiday furlough for her on humanitarian grounds.

    There is, moreover, an overarching constitutional reason for granting bail in view of her potentially life-threatening illness. The very first section of the Bill of Rights provides that “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law…”

    And with the death penalty repealed, no statute allows the state to endanger anyone’s life and person, even for capital crimes.

    Now when the Sandiganbayan bars Arroyo from the treatment, care and environment needed to improve her condition, it contributes to the ailment which, as doctors have attested, can threaten her life. The misaligned titanium implant in her neck bones, if left uncorrected as it is now, can inadvertently block her windpipe and prevent breathing.

    That could kill her.

    Corrective surgery is needed. But after three long and difficult operations in a top Philippine hospital with leading Filipino surgeons in attendance, it is not only understandable, but indispensable for Arroyo to seek treatment abroad. Would President Aquino, Ombudsman Morales, or the Sandiganbayan justices undergo a fourth operation in the country after three unsatisfactory ones?

    Denying Arroyo not only needed treatment abroad, but also healing relief from detention, and enough daily sunlight to build bone — this endangers her life and well-being. It is something the state may not do even to a convicted offender, let alone an accused presumed innocent and with flimsy evidence against her.

    The Marcos regime let former senator Aquino have a heart bypass operation in America, even though he was already sentenced to death. Estrada had knee surgery in Hong Kong during his plunder trial. Let’s pray that the Sandiganbayan and the administration will have the conscience and the heart to also treat an ailing grandmother turning 67 with justice, kindness, and value for life.

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    11 Comments

    1. Eduardo Topico on

      I have nothing against GMA given a furlough , this is for our justice system to determine, what bothers me is this author , Mr. Saludo , comparing the situation with Ninoy. Ninoy was jailed for all the wrong reasons to begin with, and was allowed to leave the country not because the conjugal dictatorship finally found love in their heart but because they know exactly what the implications are for not doing so.

      • The point is that even an “evil man” like Macoy demonstrated some semblance of compassion for a man who was already convicted. Rightly or wrongly, at least Marcos followed the rules. What implications are you talking about for a man who had full control over the country? And assuming you are right…at least Macoy listened!

    2. “Sandiganbayan”, my foot! It should be named “matador ng bayan” if the way it carries out its mandate is the way it does now, and as pointed out to us by Mr. Saludo. Saludo po ako sa into, Sir. Let us not forget the persistent appeals of Moses to the Pharaoh of Egypt to let the Israelites go free from the grip of bondage, and the Pharaoh’s turning a deaf ear to Moses’ appeal. We Filipinos are part of God’s Chosen People and He would, sooner or later, unleash his wrath – He is the BOSS after all – and whoever would dare tinker with his plans might suffer the fate of unjust rulers: getting drowned in, say, another Yolanda, Pinatubo, etc.. The Lord is merciful and just, it is true, but he also punishes, for “He hears the cry of the poor”, the Bible tells us.

    3. Yer its true it was unkind for the sandiganbayan denied for 3day furlough to cgma, to me the attack dogs of the sandiganbayan especilly true with cabotaje tang the loyal dog who licks and salivate the position just to please her master pnoy. This is the true reason why all bail are denied bcause of that loyal dog cabotaje tang the guard dog of pnoy in sandiganbayan!!

    4. POMPEYO PEDROCHE on

      I think President Aquino is fishing for a chance to be blamed if or when the denial kills the former president.

    5. The Bible has ample warnings against what this administration is doing to Gloria Arroyo like the exhortation of doing unto others as you want others to do unto you and the often repeated warning that you reap what you sow. I am no fan of Gloria never met met her and she does not nor any of her relations know me but the way she is being treated is so unchristian and uncivilized. Woe unto you pnoy the day of reckoning will surely come it will not be long now.

    6. Ok so lets say a person rapes & then murders your daughter who is 12 years old. He gets sentanced to life in prison, now after serving 20 years he gets very sick & a doctor says he would be better at home as it would help him recover, would your christin side then say lets also allow him to go home to recover on his birthday. Gloria is charged with crimes against this country & it could be a sort of treason as she has stolen ( like many others before ) untold wealth from this country. Treat her as the common criminal she is. I think people in power or positions of trust should be treated harsher than normal citizens as they should know better. Im sorry but she gets no sympathy from me, do you also think we should look with compassion on all alleged pork barrel scam accused.

    7. Whatever is good for the trophy prisoner is bad for the image of the BS. That is the only reason we can deduce from this inhuman treatment of the former president.

    8. Yes, you are 100 percent correct, Mr. Saludo.
      Where are the Christian consciences of the Sandiganbayan peope–and for that matter the stalwarts of President Benigno Aquino’s administration and circle of friends? I’m sure many of them feel sorry for the deteriorating health of former President Arroyo because they want her to be healthy for the trial and some for the basic reasons of charity and Godliness (which doesn’t mean they are politically for her and her political faction).
      The sad and most unChristian thing about these officials and lawmakers allied with the President is that they are all willing to sacrifice their souls out of the desire to please and not displease President Aquino.
      In a certain way they are committing the evil that those who did not rise against the heartlessness of those who, because they did not want to displease Henry the Eighth of England who cast aside his wives by executing them so he could get married to someone else fancied at the moment.
      I am not saying that former President Arroyo is as innocent as St. Thomas More and other victims/ I am only pointng ut the similarity in the guilty consciences of those who do not call on President Aquino and his loyalists in the Sandigan, the OMbudsman’s office and the judiciary to be more merciful and less cruel.

    9. mauricio palao on

      It might not have been the intention, but, it seems that President Arroyo had just been tried, defended and found to be ‘not-so-guilty’, and therefore, deserves a ‘certain’ set of treatments..the kind that was given to Mayor/President Estrada, PDAF Queen Napoles and, yes, Ninoy Aquino, (does Ninoy Aquino really deserve mention?). I wonder whether there are ‘not-so-guilties’ in the municipal and provincial jails, as well as in ‘Muntinglupa’, who might need similar advocacy. I wonder..”is there another term for ‘double standard’?” Just asking.

    10. There is no such heartless and vindictive president we ever had in history except this mentally derailed ampaw president BS aquino. Sandiganbayan is just following all the dictates from malacanang. Considerin morales stature as an ass licker of the president, she proved it when she ordered another investigation under her care. There is no more hope for the former president of getting a fair trial under this obsessed crazy president. I wish the former president a strong will to live beyond 2016.