Pre-trial of GMA's PCSO plunder case to proceed on May 2

By Michael Punongbayan, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 16 2013 08:36 AM | Updated as of Feb 16 2013 04:36 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The pre-trial of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the Sandiganbayan on charges of plunder arising from the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds will continue on May 2.

Prosecutors and defense counsels on that day will resume the marking of evidence and the listing of witnesses.

Arroyo’s lawyer Anacleto Diaz said he will present as evidence the original resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman on the lack of probable cause to charge his client and the other respondents with plunder.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has not released a copy of the resolution, invoking privileged communication.

Morales said the questioned resolution need not be made public because it is a mere draft and has no probative value as it contains the “personal view(s) and opinion(s) of the original panel of investigators.”

On the other hand, the Pampanga congresswoman said making public the document would uphold fair play and transparency in accordance with the constitutional mandate of the anti-graft agency.

“To be sure, it is the production of the subject original resolution that will settle once and for all the controversies surrounding it – this, in pursuit of truth, justice, fair play and responsible transparency in the government’s conduct of criminal prosecution in non-bailable offenses through the independent Office of the Ombudsman,” she said.

Diaz has asked the anti-graft court to reject the argument of Morales.

He also asked the Office of the Ombudsman for “truth, justice, fair play and responsible transparency.”

Quoting retired Chief Justice Andres Narvasa, Diaz told the Sandiganbayan: “The obligation of lawyers no less than of judges to see that this objective (of assuring that all the facts are indeed presented to the Court) is attained; that is to say, that there be no suppression, obscuration, misrepresentation or distortion of the facts.”

Diaz said the Rules of Criminal Procedure clearly consider findings of investigating prosecutors as resolutions.

“The original resolution was prepared by the members of the original panel with all the solemnities of an official and finalized document,” he said.

“All of the members of the original panel signed the original resolution sought to be produced by accused GMA (Arroyo’s initials). It also contained the mark of disapproval of the Ombudsman herself.

“(i)t is a record of the proceedings and the evidence adduced by the parties therein. If the original resolution had no legal effect at all, then the Ombudsman could have simply disregarded the same altogether as a mere scrap of paper and she would not have reviewed, acted upon and disapproved the same by her own hand as required by the Rules of Court; constituted another panel to review the original resolution of the original panel of investigators, and there would have been no need to prepare and promulgate a ‘Joint Review Resolution’.” – With Paolo Romero