SC to rule on freeing Arroyo or not before Aquino exits

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Will former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo be finally freed and be cleared of her criminal charges from the Supreme Court under the Duterte administration?

This is the question now being raised inside the high court, as the justices are now eyeing for oral arguments in the petitions of now Pampanga Rep. Arroyo involving her plunder case.

According to unimpeachable sources of The Manila Times in the high court, several justices are now pushing for oral arguments in order to amplify the issues.

The case of Arroyo is scheduled to be tackled by the SC en banc this coming Tuesday, during its regular en banc session.


Another source said that it was listed in the agenda under Item No. 91 for the deliberation of the justices.

It was pointed out that once the oral arguments pushes through, it will be a tough position for the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) whether or not Arroyo will be allowed to post bail or if the case will be dismissed.

Starting July 1, under the administration of Duterte, the OSG shall be headed by incoming Solicitor General Jose Calida and the new set of government lawyers will be put to test in the case of the former president.

The SC source said that Justices Antonio Carpio and Arturo Brion last Tuesday were eyeing to conduct oral arguments, as previously pushed by Justice Marvic Leonen.

As of the moment, there are three petitions in the high court regarding Arroyo’ case.

The first case involves the determination of probable cause in the plunder case after being charged for alleged participation in embezzling P366 million intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) from 2008 to 2010.

This case is now with Associate Justice Marvic Leonen who will act as ponente of the case.

Another SC source said that this case of Leonen has no bearing already since there was already a presentation of evidence before the Sandiganbayan 1st Division.

The high court is also handling the supervening case which is the demurrer to evidence case that is now with Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin.

This will decide whether the case of Arroyo will be dismissed or not after it was denied by the Sandiganbayan.

The third case involves the review of the petition for bail pleaded by the former president, but was junked by the Sandiganbayan.

The case now reached the 15-man tribunal and landed in the hands of Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza.

Duterte has already made a pronouncement that he has offered Arroyo to pardon her once he became president. However, the former president refused because she has to plead guilty to the case. Arroyo maintained the she is innocent of the crime.

Besides Arroyo, also charged with plunder by the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan were PCSO General Manager and Vice Chairman Rosario Uriarte; Board of Directors Manuel Morato, Jose Taruc, Raymundo Roquero, Ma. Fatima Valdes; Budget and Accounts Manager Benigno Aguas; Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Reynaldo Villar; and former COA’s Fraud Audit Unit head Nilda Plaras.

One SC source said that Arroyo’s case is considered “unthinkable” since all the other accused are now on bail, including the principals by direct participation. Only Arroyo is in prison via a hospital arrest after being tagged as mastermind to the crime.

Arroyo filed the petition after the United Nations Working Group on Human Rights ruled that her detention is arbitrary.

JOMAR CANLAS

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