What follows are the facts involving the cases against former President Arroyo, for which she has been denied freedom for two years and two months now.
You judge if this is in pursuit of justice, or merely a merciless persecution for some reason by President Aquino that, in all honesty, I cannot understand.
Others explain it as Aquino’s need to portray his administration as fulfilling its anti-corruption campaign promise, which he however has completely botched.
President Aquino has been in power for three and a half years. In all this time, no customs official abetting smugglers, no BIR staff extorting a small businessman, no DPWH bureaucrat conniving in a rigged construction bidding, no police officer or high official in Malacanang in cahoots with jueteng lords have been caught and charged.
Nothing has been done to enhance the capacity of the Office of the Ombudsman to run after the corrupt, with its meager resources thrown against Arroyo and her officials, and even former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
November 18, 2011: Arroyo is ordered arrested on an “electoral sabotage” charge, based on the testimony of a single witness who claimed that she ordered then Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr. to cheat so that her administration’s senatorial candidates’ victory in the 2007 elections would be assured.
The witness, the only witness, is Ampatuan’s provincial administrator Norie Unas, who was alleged to be one of five people other than the governor who planned and executed the Maguindanao massacre of 58 unarmed men and women, including 32 journalists, in 2010. It was even Unas’ macabre idea to use a tractor-mounted backhoe in order to quickly bury and hide the corpses.
Unas claimed he “overheard” Arroyo—in the din of conversations of a hundred people in the hallway from a Malacanang dining room—issuing the order. Ampatuan has flatly denied Unas’ claim.
Unas has not been included among those charged in the Maguindanao massacre. When he testified at the Pasay City Regional Trial Court where the case was filed, Unas admitted—amazingly in a nonchalant way—that he agreed to testify in the case against Arroyo because he was seeking immunity from prosecution from his involvement in the Maguindanao massacre case.
March 2 and 12, 2012: A panel of investigators of the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed a plunder complaint against Arroyo filed in 2011 by Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel, ex-general Danilo Lim, and the Aquino-appointed management of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. The investigators instead recommended a charge of graft or technical malversation, which are “bailable” offenses.
They alleged that Arroyo committed plunder as she authorized the release of P366 in PCSO’s confidential funds during her term. The evidence they submitted was the transcript of the Senate hearings on the controversy, which however did not recommend charges against Arroyo.
Hontiveros would run—unsuccessfully—for Senator under Aquino’s party in the 2013 elections, while Lim would be appointed deputy commissioner for intelligence of the graft-ridden Bureau of Customs. Lim would resign—or forced to resign—in August last year, having failed to curb smuggling in the country, which had worsened to include even smuggled rice and vegetables.
I don’t know how Hontiveros and Lim can sleep at nights, after having conspired with Aquino to put Arroyo in jail on flimsy charges, in exchange for a chance to be senator, in the case of the Akbayan party leader, and to get a crucial post at the Bureau of Customs, in the case of the former Marine general. They’re probably gnashing their teeth now over what have turned out to be quintessential devil’s pacts.
July 16, 2012: Obviously informed that the Pasay City judge would soon allow bail for Arroyo and release her that month, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales reversed the recommendation of her original panel of investigators, and filed the plunder case involving PCSO funds at the Sandiganbayan. The filing was obviously rushed, as Arroyo’s lawyers weren’t even given copies of the Ombudsman resolution to do so, which is in violation of rules on graft cases.
July 25, 2012: Arroyo was granted bail on the electoral sabotage case, and released, eight months after she was arrested and after two hearings “The court believes that the prosecution failed to establish with the required quantum of proof, that conspiracy exists on the part of accused Arroyo,” said the court’s bail order.
October 2012: Arroyo is arrested for the PCSO plunder charge, upon orders of the Sandiganbayan.
January 2013: After several postponements on grounds that she was ill, one of PCSO’s Aquino-appointed board director, a former NGO official, Aleta Tolentino—whom the Ombudsman claimed was its star-witness—testified that she had no personal knowledge on the allegations, and that the PCSO had not found any single evidence that Arroyo even had access to the state-firms’ confidential funds.
Tolentino testified that Arroyo as President was required by law and Commission on Audit rules to sign the approval of confidential and intelligence funds of the PCSO.
All past presidents, even Aquino’s mother, routinely approved “confidential intelligence funds.” I should think that nowadays Aquino himself also routinely gives his approval. That former president Arroyo’s approval of these PCSO intelligence funds involves graft would have to be proven by evidence that the President or any other official who signed the release of such funds pocketed money from those intelligence funds. No such evidence has ever been presented, or even argued to exist by the prosecutors.
June 7, 2013: Sandiganbayan grants bail to Arroyo’s other co-accused, then PCSO chairman Sergio Valencia as well as board members Manuel Morato and Ray Roquero. Two of the three Sandiganbayan justices denied Arroyo’s bail petition. With no unanimous vote, two other justices were asked to join the panel to rule on Arroyo’s bail petition, as required by the Sandiganbayan’s procedure, with a majority vote sufficient for a decision.
November 6, 2013: The two additional judges who joined in to rule on Arroyo’s petition were Sandiganbayan Presiding Judge (the equivalent of Chief Justice in the case of the Supreme Court) Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Jose Hernandez.
Justice Tang voted not to grant Arroyo bail. Aquino appointed her to be the anti-graft court’s presiding judge just a month before, on October 3. The move had raised eyebrows in the legal community, as she was the most junior member of the Sandiganbayan, having been appointed by Aquino as associate justice, only in June 2012.
Associate Justice Rafael Lagos, who also voted against the bail petition, was the first associate justice Aquino appointed to the Sandiganbayan—in December 2010.
The third justice who voted against Arroyo’s bail in the June 2013 deliberation was Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz, who had been in the Sandiganbayan since 2003. Since, among other reasons, he was among the four most senior associate justices, de la Cruz was rumored to be the one to replace Presiding Justice Francisco Villacruz upon his retirement on June 7, 2013, when the Sandiganbayan division first ruled on Arroyo’s bail petition. But that was months before Aquino surprised everyone and appointed Tang as presiding judge instead.
January 21, 2014: Ombudsman prosecutors presented as witness against Arroyo Flerida Africa Jimenez, chief of the Intelligence and Confidential Funds Audit Office of the Commission on Audit (COA).
However, Jimenez practically cleared Arroyo of any wrongdoing, testifying that the confidential and intelligence funds the former president was accused of “plundering” was fully liquidated in 2008, 2009 and 2010, with the COA finding no anomaly or irregularity in their use.
She reiterated the official findings of the Commission on Audit of PCSO for the years Arroyo was alleged to have “plundered” its intelligence funds, that there were no anomalies not only in her approval of these funds, but that PCSO management had liquidated these funds according to government procedures.
That could be the reason the chairman of the COA then Reynaldo Villar was included among the accused in Arroyo’s plunder charge. They wanted to pressure him to reverse his findings during those years, or else suffer in jail.
To be honest, I cannot understand why officials close to Aquino—the likes of Mar Roxas, Corazon Soliman, Florencio Abad, and Teresita Deles—are cheering Arroyo’s cruel persecution, when they know in their heart of hearts, after spending more than five years with the former president, that she is innocent of the crimes for which she is being detained.
Often boasting that they have spent much of their adult years in struggling for justice, why do they tolerate such ruthless injustice inflicted upon Arroyo whom they will admit was not only their superior who gave them an opportunity to serve the country, but their bosom friend then?
I cannot understand why their hearts have turned to stone: Don’t they realize that the 66-year old grandmother requires urgent specialist treatment abroad, or just the peace of mind living at home could provide, or else as her doctor put it, she would suffer serious impairment of her health, and even worse?
And the other cases against Arroyo that grabbed headlines of mainstream newspapers several years ago?
All of these have been dismissed, pending (i.e., still being evaluated as to their merits) at the Ombudsman or at the Sandiganbayan.
After more than three years during which this administration has ransacked government records and bribed—unsuccessfully—former officials whom they thought would be “whistle-blowers, the only cases against Arroyo are one that’s completely based on a massacre-suspect’s dubious allegations and another based on a Senate, in-aid-of-publicity, investigation.
Indeed, as that Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca the Younger so aptly put it, “Time discloses truth” (Veritatem dies aperit.)
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