Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Aranal-Sereno insists that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is liable for plunder simply because of the principle of “command responsibility.”
Sereno, part of the block in the Supreme Court that lost the voting on the Arroyo plunder case, wrote in her dissenting opinion that the former President’s approval of the release of the state charity agency’s intelligence funds for seven times in the course of three years “reveals the initial, indispensable act of conspiracy to commit plunder.”
The high tribunal on Tuesday voted 11 against 4 to dismiss criminal cases against Arroyo, through a “demurrer to evidence.”
This meant that the charge against Arroyo for her alleged embezzlement of P366 million in confidential and intelligence funds (CIF) of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) from 2008 to 2010 was weak.
The 48-page majority decision penned by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, released
Thursday, argued that Arroyo could not be convicted as she did not commit the act of raiding the national coffers, a predicate to the crime of plunder.
Also, Arroyo did not engage in a conspiracy with PCSO officials to amass ill-gotten wealth of at least P50 million, the minimum amount required to establish plunder, the ruling stated.
Sereno objected to the majority decision’s argument that the doctrine of command responsibility did not apply, because the PCSO case did not involve Arroyo’s functions as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.
She cited a Marcos-era order.
“Contrary to that statement of the ponencia, however, the control of the President, not only over the PCSO, but also over the intelligence funds, is clearly mandated by Letter of Instruction No. 1282 which sheds light on the role of the President when it comes to the expenditure of intelligence funds,” Sereno stated in her dissenting opinion also released on Thursday.
Moreover, there was enough evidence of plunder against Arroyo and co-accused Rosario Uriarte and Benigno Aguas, former PCSO vice chairwoman and budget and accounts officer, respectively.
“The act of amassing, accumulating, or acquiring CIF Funds is thus evident. I agree with the Sandiganbayan’s pronouncement that Arroyo was rightly charged as a co-conspirator of Uriarte who received the cash advance for most of the accounts,” Sereno pointed out.
Sereno also disagreed with the majority that personal benefit needed to be proven to establish that plunder had occurred.
“In this case, there is ample evidence to show that Uriarte gained material possession of the amounts through cash advances facilitated by the repeated and unqualified approval of the requests by Arroyo and that a large portion of the amount received as cash advance was later certified by Aguas to have been used by the Office of the President,” she said.