Sandiganbayan “changed” plunder law to keep Arroyo in jail

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If you were made aware of the excuses given by the Sandiganbayan’s First Division for its refusal to grant bail to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, you would be very, very angry. You’d wonder how such an utter distortion of the law could occur in this country that is supposedly under the rule of law.

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You’d tend to believe the widespread rumors in legal circles that this division of the Sandiganbayan firmly bears the mark of President Aquino’s thumb, and that he or his representative has directly called several times the members of this body to emphasize to them that at all costs, they should not and cannot grant bail to the 68-year old grandmother who has a life-threatening illness. (The First Division consists of Efren de la Cruz as presiding judge, with Rafael Lagosa and Rodolfo Ponferrada as members. Justices Alex Quiroz and Napoleon Inoturon were recently added as members of the division.)

No wonder, international lawyer Amal Clooney was so horrified at the blatant disregard for the rule of law in Arroyo’s incarceration that she took the case to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. No wonder that in just two months’ time, the Group issued its conclusion that the former president is a victim of arbitrary detention, that she should be immediately released, and that she should even sue for damages.

No wonder that the Supreme Court two weeks ago in an unprecedented move barred the Sandiganbayan from proceeding with the case until it has ruled on the petition filed by Arroyo’s lawyer, Estelito Mendoza.

Exasperated over the Sandiganbayan’s blatant disregard of the law, Mendoza has asked the Supreme Court itself to dismiss the plunder charges against the former president.

It is a test whether this nation still has a court of last resort to check the distortions of the law the Aquino regime has managed to undertake just to keep his predecessor in jail for the past three years. Whether it is an act of vengeance over some slight in the past, or fear of her political clout, or a false trophy to brag about for his anti-corruption drive – we can only surmise.

The case filed at the Court involved Arroyo’s approval requested of her for the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s (PCSO) P366 million intelligence and confidential funds (CIF) in 2008. Such approval is ‘ministerial,’ i.e., a routine required by a Marcos Letter of Instruction No. 1282 of 1983 (which has the power of law) not only in the PCSO’s case but in similar funds, released by all presidents including Aquino.

For some reason, it became a cause célèbre – a false one, though – by the strident anti-Arroyo movement, with Senate hearings undertaken in 2011. These hearings, however, yielded no anomalous findings other than that funds were used to donate SUVs to bishops stationed in the boondocks and to help raise the blood-money for OFWs convicted of some crime and due for beheading in Saudi Arabia.

Aquino’s agenda, though, was to jail for whatever reason, Arroyo, who he sees in his twisted mind as someone like Marcos was to his mother, Cory.

To conceal his role behind it, Aquino got Akbayan leader Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel and her associate, military mutineer Danilo Lim, to file a plunder case against Arroyo for her approval of the PCSO CIF funds. Aquino rewarded her for her service by including her in his 2013 senatorial slate. Lim was given a plum post at the Bureau of Customs as deputy commissioner for intelligence.

Hontiveros lost in that election and now has the gall and shamelessness to run for the Senate again under Aquino’s party in 2016. She is campaigning early, using government funds for airing TV ads disguised as public messages from Philhealth, where Aquino had positioned her as a board member. Why would anyone vote for such a hypocritical political mercenary?

You wouldn’t believe what Hontiveros and Lim submitted as evidence of plunder and witness against Arroyo.

The transcript of the Senate hearings – peppered with charges being hurled left and right for the anti-Arroyo peanut gallery without any shred of proof! Their witness? The Senate clerk attesting to the authenticity of the transcript!

It’s been a Kafkaesque trial for Arroyo. The Commission on Audit chairman, during which term the use of the confidential funds was cleared by lower ranking auditors, was included among those accused, apparently to force him to bear false witness against Arroyo. He didn’t. Eight of the 10 accused (mostly PCSO trustees) and detained were granted bail, except Arroyo and the poor PCSO budget officer, Benigno Aguas.

The prosecution presented about eight witnesses, all of whom were military men doing intelligence work. They merely explained what “intelligence fund” meant, and it quickly became clear their presence at the hearing was a trick employed by Aquino’s lawyers to prolong the trial. They, of course, knew nothing about PCSO’s intelligence funds.

Arroyo’s lawyers pleaded to the Court several times: Arroyo just approved the intelligence funds, as was required of her to prove such funds by most agencies. Not a centavo of it passed through her – as mandated, it is the board which allocates its use, it is the PCSO management which “liquidates” it, i.e., submits the receipts proving it has been used legally.

Had there been something wrong with the way it was used, the COA would not have cleared it and would have asked the PCSO officials to return the money. If the charge was plunder or even malversation of funds, please show some proof that the funds were illegally used or ended up in Arroyo’s pocket or any PCSO official’s bank account.

By using excuses such as what they cited for not dismissing the case, or for not even granting bail to Arroyo, these [expletive-deleted] in robes did the unthinkable: they altered the Philippines’ plunder law itself!

The plunder and anti-graft laws of this land categorically require proof that funds allegedly stolen from government ended up in the pockets of the accused. In former president Joseph Estrada’s case, the prosecutors proved with bank accounts and even witnesses (bank officers) that jueteng money and tobacco excise tax funds turned up in his bank accounts.

Amazingly, for judges of their stature to be in special court devoted to prosecuting graft, the Sandiganbayan in one of its resolutions denying Arroyo bail eliminated this well known requirement for proving plunder or just plain graft, and declared, utterly without any basis either in terms of the law or Supreme Court jurisprudence:

“Thus a ‘raid on the public treasury’ can be said to have been achieved through the pillaging or looting of public coffers either through misuse, misappropriation or conversion, without need of establishing gain or profit to the raider. Otherwise stated, once a “raider” gets material possession of a government asset through improper means and has free disposal of the same, the raid or pillage is completed.”

The Sandiganbayan wove a web of fallacy in which it was itself entangled when it pointed out: “What [the]accused Arroyo forgets is that although she did not actually commit any ‘overt act’ of illegally amassing CIF funds, her act of approving not only the additional CIF funds but also their releases, aided and abetted [the]accused Uriarte’s successful raids on the public treasury.”

But the essence of the plunder law, if you will, is about “illegally amassing” funds from government, Arroyo’s lawyer Mendoza has argued in his petition at the Court.

If Arroyo, as the Sandiganbayan itself said, did not illegally amass such funds, how could she be accused of plunder under that law? Approving the release of funds to a public official who subsequently steals them is not the kind of crime punishable under the plunder law. It is the official’s own act of theft of public funds that qualifies as plunder in that case. The Sandiganbayan invented such crime.

Arroyo’s trial has become a theater of the absurd, not much different from the Inquisition of the medieval ages:

She is guilty of plunder even if it is not proven that she used the PCSO intelligence funds for her private use. And the definition of plunder or “raid on the public treasury” by the Sandiganbayan?” It is the improper acquisition and illegal use of the intelligence funds that amount to a raid on the public treasury.

How does it define “improper use?” “The encashment of the checks, which named her as the ‘payee,’ gave (PCSO) General Manager Uriarte material possession of the CIF funds which she disposed of at will,” the Sandiganbayan pontificated.

One’s mind reels in the language games the Sandiganbayan plays just to keep Arroyo in jail. Why would they put on the line their careers in the legal system by making absurd legal arguments?

But the funds were used for legitimate purposes, as the COA concluded, Arroyo’s lawyers claimed. Not a single witness out of the 21 the prosecution presented, not any of the 637 exhibits it presented, showed that any money from the CIF was used illegally.

“We will see, but in the meantime, Arroyo stays in jail,” the Sandiganbayan in so many words said.

This is the worst kind of oppression, as hellish as in medieval times when the Inquisition would torture heretics to confess, which then was taken as proof of their guilt.

A nation’s entire system of the rule of law is undermined when a law is distorted by justices in order to persecute a political figure, just to follow the orders of a ruthless President.

tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
www.rigobertotiglao.com

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36 Comments

  1. Why is Estelito Mendoza not believable when he is defending the likes of Danding, Lucio Tan and ERAP, but when its somebody like GMA, he is?

  2. Well written Mr. Tiglao. The Sandiganbayan justices are intimidated that if they release GMA, they will follow the footsteps of Chief Justice Corona.

  3. From the start I didn’t consider abnoy as president of the republic, from the beginning I have doubts on his personality, I have doubts whether he could work properly or normally. I just observed him from the other side of the perimeter how he acted as a leader for almost five years. I now understand and realized then this damned fool in reality is a stupid idiot trying to be a smart alec or an as—le. Good Lord, my countrymen why did you allow him to rule this country? He turns out to be the evil one, not Mr. Marcos.

  4. This article is a must read to all Filipinos who have a heart. My heart bleeds reading the truth of GMA’s case. Truly this ABNOY is “ruthless”. May araw makarma kayo with these justices.

  5. Frank C Cornejo on

    So what is new? And to think Mar Roxas will continue and call it Phase 2! Poor GMA. The SC we hope will correct all these abuses.

  6. Mariano Patalinjug on

    Yonkers, New York
    28 October 2015

    Let’s not forget that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is lawfully charged with two NON-BAILABLE crimes: 1] for “rigging the 2007 elections” before the Regional Trial Court in Pasig City, and 2] for Plunder, before the Sandiganbayan.

    The word “NON-BAILABLE” simply means that one who is charged with a crime that is not BAILABLE, has to be detained–and normally detained in the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa City, The fact is that the Government has been unusually lenient in her case because it has swalllowed her act of feigning illness and allowed her instead to be detained in a government hospital.

    In the matter of that UN Group on Arbitrary Group saying that GMA’s detention is “arbitrary” and that she is therefore entitled to be released on bail, former Supreme Court Chief Justice ARTEMIO V. PANGANIBAN let on that this is just an “OPINION” by that UN group and is not a binding ruling or decision by an international body like the International Court of Justice or the International Criminal Court.

    All this time that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has succeeded in feigning illness, she has actually been discharging the duties of a Representative from Pampanga. She has been at it for two terms now–and only recently declared that she is running for a third term!

    MARIANO PATALINJUG
    patalinjugmar@gmail.com

    • well, have you heard any news about those cases which had been filed…i guess we must checked what are the status of those so called NON BAILABLE OFFENSE…baka ppo kasi nadismis na..at kinakapitan n lang eh yung pcso…

  7. Kung ano ang iyong itinanim, iyon din ang iyong aanihin. Huwag mong gawin sa iyong kapwa ang ayaw mong gawin ng iyong kapwa sa iyo. Gawin mo sa iyong kapwa ang nais mong gawin nila sa iyo. Someday ang mga salitang iyan at nanamnamin din ng mga taong ito ang kanilang mga ginagawa sa kanilang kapwa ngayon. Maraming beses nang napatunayang totoo ang mga salitang ito. Tingnan natin kung ang mangyayari sa mga taong ito na nanggigipit sa kanilang kapwa.

  8. >>> Since the beginning from year 2010 to this year…. this group of YELLOW TARD are the most dangerous reactionary group, because they were called the centrist core.

    And I don’t understand why those militant or revolutionary group especially ‘Mao Tsetung or Ched’dung -Thought ” oriented group contented and some of them joined and collaborated with this Yellow Tard. Because of fringe benefits they got from taxpayers money thru illegal and unconstitutional DAP Funds and PDAFof this administration brain-drained president.

  9. >>> This SandiganBayad + OmBadsman+DoJ are the sum of Brain-Drained President.
    And this is aligned to “Tuwid Na Daan”. Which shows that they are the LAW BENDER in the name of justice. LAW BENDER IS MORE DANGEROUS THAN A LAW BREAKER. Because they are pretentious and presumptuous which manifested being “HYPOCRITES”.

  10. Both Hontiveros & Lim are losers in last election. Nagpagamit Kay PNOY Para sumikat Lang at they victimizing Glory to gain popularity.

  11. With the history of the Aquinos, the law is for them to bend. Point in case is the CARP, which is the centerpiece of Cory’s admin aside of the flyover constructions awarded to relatives. Cory thought ahead and put one over the CARP law, she saw to it that there will be a loophole and loophole there was. Now Cory’s son will not be tamed to do what is in their genes but in different manner. He (Pnoy) saw to it that the laws of the land can be corrupted, and corrupt he did e.g. Corona, GMA cases. Nor far behind is Cory’s daughter Kris, the marriage law is for her to plunder. So the DNA passess through the siblings I agree, but this is the law of science in all its realm will be forever true, otherwise is susceptible to the Aquinos.

  12. Sir, I salute you.. Keep on going until this autistic president is completely out of his mind. Then He should be confined at the MANDALUYONG MENTAL Hospital..

  13. May mali yata..

    Arroyo’s approval on PCSO intelligence fund = KULONG
    PeNOY’s approval on DAP fund (SC ruled unconstitutional) = GOOD FAITH

  14. Gloria Arroyo is in detention for plunder, a non-bailable crime under Philippine laws. GMA as president, used the powers of her office to influence and participate in taking taxpayers money. She committed a crime against the people and the republic. Any president would have taken her in detention for her crime, Aquino just happens to be the one sitting in Malacanang.

  15. Sooner or later karma will catch up with Pnoy. If he lands in jail, the Filipino people should rejoice. If he dies of lung cancer while in jail… that is a welcome bonus…

  16. have you not yet realized mr. tiglao that we are virtually under dictatorship without the baggage of martial law? what aquino wants aquino gets regardless. what rule of law are we talking about?

  17. those corrupted judges and their families will eventually pay the ultimate price—the blatant connivance of this animals in robes must not go unpunished, eventually their time willcome,and when it does, i truly wonder if the yellow monster they adore as God will be around to save their skin…..dadating ang panahon at iiyak kayo ng bato,sobrang garapal ang pang aabuso nyo sa kapangyarihan ng gobyerno natin…winasak nyo ang hustisya ng ng bansa at dapat lang na pagbabayarin kayo

  18. May God Almighty give due punishment to PNOY and his cohorts and may the Filipino people be able to save themselves, with God’s help.

  19. Bert Hernandez on

    Shame ! Shame! This is the leader that we thought will be a good president that will follow the laws of the land, but he is rather a lawbreaker. Baluktot talaga ang Daan nito. Darating din ang Panahon mo, bagsak ka rin sa kulungan.

  20. Manny De Guzman on

    Sandalan ng injustice ang mga justices na ito. Walang utak, ang laman at nakikita ay malaking pabuya ng mal-kanyang. Bosses daw ng ibgot na ito ang mga pilipino. Lokohin mo ang lilong lilong mong panot. Hindi ka presidente ng pinas Pulot ka lang ng hucos-pucos machine na yan. Makapal talaga ang pagmumukha nitong gunggong na ito.

  21. HELLO!!! CALLING

    “Efren de la Cruz as presiding judge, with Rafael Lagosa and Rodolfo Ponferrada as members. Justices Alex Quiroz and Napoleon Inoturon were recently added as members of the division.”

    Will you be the next going to JAIL soon?

    It is obvious that all of this is political, a Banana Republic Court…. Do you have shame Cruz? Lagosa? Ponferrada? Quiroz? Inoturon?

  22. Leodegardo Pruna on

    P-Noy is out of hand and getting out of mind. He would end up his term as a follower who got rattled because of his many bosses and ended up confused and bewildered not even knowing what happen during his term. The people around him who bossed him around are out laughing. What is truly disappointing is the injustice done to people not his liking .. God bless the Philippines.

  23. Those Sandigan justices are scared of PNoy because they might be investigated for hidden wealth and kickbacks. Or, they want to make PNoy happy because they are expecting to be promoted or bribed.

    • libertad ramos on

      you nailed it! puro mga tuta ni Pnoy yang sandigan justices. parang ombudsman din. kawawa naman mga napapagdidiskitahan ni PNOY. walang kalabanlaban. buti meron pang natitirang nagmamalasakit tulad ni Mr Tiglao, buti waka pang kaso laban sa kanya

  24. The Sandiganbayan judges or justices should be sentenced to die by firing squad for the injustice they did to Gloria Arroyo, which is as blatant as Pnoy is autistic;

  25. francoalminolibre on

    if abad et. al approved the release of dap funds, for which no law was passed creating it, and if the released money ended up in the bank accounts of enrile, estrada or revilla, is that plunder?

  26. Eugenio Valdez on

    I salute Mr Tiglao for making it so clear that the case against former President GMA is a mockery of justice, pure and simple. Why the honorable justices of that Sandiganbayan Division are willing to be dogged tools of oppression and horrible injustice can be a mulltimillion-dollar question.

    By the way, kindly research if this is true – is this Presiding Justice Efren de la Cruz the same Justice who was appointed by GMA?

  27. Carl Zimmerman on

    The treatment Arroyo has received makes me despair for the Philippines as a nation of laws. But to me the worst abuse is the denial of the right to a speedy trial, especially when the accused has been denied bail.

  28. In one of the articles I read about GMA’s plunder case, the Sandiganbayan even shifted the burden of proof to the accused by requiring GMA’s camp to present evidence that she didn’t benefit from the PCSO funds. This is totally absurd.

    I wonder why the GMA camp took so long time before they run to the SC and ask for their intervention. Obviously, they will not get a fair trial at the Sandiganbayan. GMA has been in jail for almost 4 years now without any conviction. She’s continuously being denied justice by the intentional delay of the case. It’s about time the SC step in.

  29. BS Aquino is scarred to death if Gloria is granted bail.

    This government is 101% worse than “MARTIAL LAW”
    DURING THE MARCOS YEARS.