SUPREME Court (SC) Associate Justice Mario Victor Leonen has blocked the move to acquit former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of plunder charges.
According to unimpeachable sources of The Manila Times in the High Court, Leonen has circulated his dissenting opinion to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and the 13 other SC associate justices.
This is in connection with the charge against Arroyo for her alleged embezzlement of P366 million in intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office from 2008 to 2010.
Leonen is said to have objected to the draft ponencia (decision) of Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin that seeks to grant the petition for certiorari of Arroyo in her demurrer to evidence, a motion to dismiss because of lack of evidence, which was rejected by the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court last year.
The Manila Times on Monday reported that most SC justices were inclined to dismiss the plunder rap because prosecutors presented a weak case against the former president.
The draft of Leonen stated that the Sandiganbayan First Division “committed no grave abuse of discretion in issuing the assailed April 6, 2015 and September 10, 2015 resolutions,” the SC source said.
The junior justice of the SC also opined that it would be better for his colleagues not to exercise the court’s “awesome powers” at this time.
Leonen believes, the source said, that prudence dictates that the SC should defer to the wisdom of the Sandiganbayan justices who had ruled against Arroyo.
The SC source, however, believes that an overwhelming majority of the justices will join the “well-crafted” ponencia of Bersamin for the acquittal of Arroyo.
The victory of the Bersamin ponencia will pave the way for the freedom of Arroyo from detention at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.
The Bersamin draft stated that the Sandiganbayan “acted capriciously,” “gravely abusing its discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.”
The source said the Bersamin draft ponencia recommended to “grant” the petition for certiorari of Arroyo for demurrer to evidence and “annuls and set[s]aside” the resolution issued by the Sandiganbayan under Criminal Case No. SB-12-CRM-0174 on April 6, 2015 and by the Special First Division of the Sandiganbayan on September 10, 2015.