IT’S official and final.
Because of weak evidence, former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was acquitted by the Supreme Court en banc on Tuesday of the crime of plunder in connection with the alleged misuse of P366 million in intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
As reported by The Manila Times two weeks ago, Arroyo secured an overwhelming majority of the high court justices, including three of six appointees of her nemesis, former President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
With a vote of 11 against 4, the criminal charge against Arroyo was dismissed by the high court via demurrer to evidence.
The Manila Times on Monday predicted that at least 10 votes would be cast in favor of Arroyo.
The 11 Justices who voted for Arroyo’s acquittal are Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, the ponente or author of the decision, and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Mariano del Castillo, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, Bienvenido Reyes, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Francis Jardeleza.
Reyes, Perlas-Bernabe and Jardeleza are all appointees of Aquino, whose government kept Arroyo at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center since 2012.
Three other appointees of Aquino voted against Arroyo’s acquittal: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justices Marvic Leonen and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, an Arroyo appointee, also dissented.
Court spokesman Theodore Te, who announced the results of the vote and read the dispositive portion of the ruling in a news conference, did not give other details.
Several Supreme Court justices who talked to The Manila Times on condition of anonymity said that the ruling means that Arroyo will be immediately released from her detention, after the en banc reversed the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court and granted her plea for demurrer to evidence.
The case cannot be re-filed by the Ombudsman under the principle of double jeopardy.
In effect, the ruling is final and immediately executory.
A demurrer to evidence case happens when the accused pleads for the dismissal of the charges after the prosecution has presented evidence and rested its case.
Arroyo no longer presented evidence before her trial at the Sandiganbayan, arguing that the prosecution, headed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, had insufficient evidence.
The court also voted 10 against 5 to acquit Arroyo’s co-accused, former PCSO official Benigno Aguas.
Justice Bernabe voted against the acquittal of Aguas through a separate concurring and dissenting opinion.