Mayor asks SC to stop Arroyo plunder trial

Posted at 01/09/2013 5:46 PM | Updated as of 01/09/2013 5:46 PM

MANILA, Philippines -- Another batch of constituents of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to stop her trial before the Sandiganbayan regarding her plunder case in connection with the alleged misuse of the P366 million Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.

Led by Guagua Mayor Ricardo Rivera, 39 residents of the second district of Pampanga filed a five-page supplemental petition for intervention before the high court, joining the earlier petition for intervention filed by fellow residents Rico Ocampo, Eugene Paul Ponio, Marcelo Valencia and Joaquin Mañalac.

They said they have been deprived of representation by their duly-elected representative with Arroyo’s incarceration for a non-bailable charge.

In their petition, they asked the SC to “immediately issue a temporary restraining order and/or a writ of preliminary injunction enjoining the respondent Ombudsman from prosecuting the case, and the respondent Sandiganbayan from proceeding with the case and from continuing with the arrest and detention of Arroyo.”

The petition was signed by Rivera, Anthony Torres, Roy Sunglao, Rodolfo Ocampo, Joel Pascual, Rey Cayanan, Ruben Manlutac, Hector David, Ernesto Enriquez, Ruperto Tanjoco, Santos, Serrano, Homer Garcia, Dante Gozo, Angelo Layug, Victor Gaviola, Antonio Ladao, Helen Tantengco, Ma. Victoria Soriano, Jessie Cardona, Alfonso Ocampo, Jesus Sunga, Maricel Sunglao, Fe Sunglao, Amylyn Sunglao, Bernadette Sunglao, Joel Pascua, Remy Ria Pascua, Gino Ocampo, Danilo Alfonso, Evelino Parico, Heriberto Alfonso, Dante Sarmiento, Florinda Dasig, Eneline Vitug, Paterno Ocampo, Russel Sahagun, Jingerly Calma, Orlando Navarro, Sharon Baldovino and Mark Owen Guiao.

PCSO funds duly approved by COA, says Arroyo.

Earlier this week, the office of the former president said the PCSO funds were duly approved and audited by the Commission on Audit (COA).

In a ten-page reiterative motion to the SC for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction on her the plunder case, Arroyo,
represented by her lawyer Anacleto Diaz, said the Ombudsman cannot overturn a finding of the COA that the P366 million confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) were “lawful, necessary, regular and compliant with the rules.”

Diaz said, “(n)o tribunal or agency should override or supplant the determination made by the COA regarding the CIFs of the PCSO, which was within the exclusive competency and expertise of the COA (as) it is well-settled that administrative decisions of agencies on matters within their jurisdiction are entitled to respect and can only be set aside on proof of grave abuse of discretion, fraud or error of law."

“If the COA itself approved and certified as lawful, necessary, regular, compliant and above-board the disbursement and liquidation of the CIFs submitted by the PCSO, then the conclusion reached by the respondent Ombudsman that the crime of plunder has been committed by the petitioner GMA and her co-accused as to the PCSO CIFs was clearly devoid of factual and legal basis,” he added.

In finding probable cause for plunder despite the allowance and liquidation of the subject CIFs, Diaz said the Ombudsman has no case against Arroyo and her co-accused.

"The questioned resolutions of the respondent Ombudsman finding probable cause against petitioner GMA and her co-accused are nothing but mere uncorroborated speculations or suspicions predicated on loose, vague, and doubtful basis of fact.”

The other people accused in the plunder case are PCSO General Manager for Finance Rosario Uriarte, PSCO Assistant Manager for Finance Benigno Aguas, former PCSO Chairman Sergio Valencia, former PCSO Board Members Manuel Morato, Ray Roquero, Jose Taruc V and Ma. Fatima Valdez, former COA Chairman Reynaldo Villar, and COA Director Nilda Plaras.