Arroyo can't leave Philippines

By Evelyn Macairan, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 26 2012 01:39 AM | Updated as of Jul 26 2012 09:39 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Bureau of Immigration (BI) alerted all its personnel that former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is under a hold-departure order (HDO) issued the other day by the Sandiganbayan.

BI spokesperson Ma. Antonette Bucasas-Mangrobang said yesterday they received an order from the Sandiganbayan to prevent Arroyo from leaving the country.

This developed as Arroyo was allowed to post bail by the Pasay City Regional Trial Court on charges of electoral sabotage.

The Sandiganbayan placed Arroyo on the HDO list last Tuesday on another case: plunder involving the misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.

“The HDO is a clear directive from the Sandiganbayan to prevent (Arroyo’s) departure and that is inputted in our database so any immigration officer will be immediately alerted to deny departure of any person with HDO,” Mangrobang said.

She said copies of the HDO directive would be distributed to the BI offices at the more than 50 international ports in the country. There are six international airports and the remaining are seaports.

Mangrobang said the HDO would remain in effect unless ordered lifted by the court.

The Sandiganbayan, however, has yet to issue a warrant of arrest for Arroyo on the charges of plunder.

Prosecutors of the Office of the Ombudsman said they are leaving it up to the discretion of the Sandiganbayan’s First Division to issue the arrest orders.

“That’s the prerogative of the court. They have to evaluate on their own the existence of probable cause before issuing a warrant of arrest,” Office of the Special Prosecutor director Diosdado Calonge said.

The anti-graft court’s First Division chaired by Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz has so far issued only an HDO against Arroyo.

Her fellow respondents in the plunder case that included former PCSO general manager and vice chairman Rosario Uriarte and former Commission on Audit (COA) chairman Reynaldo Villar are also covered by the HDO.

The Sandiganbayan will hear today Arroyo’s motion for suspension of proceedings and other pleadings filed by her co-accused after the Office of the Ombudsman filed the case last week.

The Ombudsman has decided to form a team of lawyers that will handle the P365.9-million PCSO plunder case with Calonge leading the panel.

Calonge said their first task would be to answer and address the separate motions for suspension of proceedings, judicial determination of probable cause, and other pleadings filed by the respondents.

Arroyo was accused of “conniving, conspiring and confederating” with former PCSO and COA officials to “willfully, unlawfully, and criminally amass, accumulate and or acquire directly or indirectly ill-gotten wealth in the aggregate amount or total value of P365,997,915.”

Arroyo allegedly diverted the operating budget of PCSO to its confidential and or intelligence funds “that could be accessed and withdrawn at any time with minimal restrictions, and converting, misusing, and or illegally conveying or transferring the proceeds from said fund in the aforesaid sum also in several instances in the guise of fictitious expenditures for their personal gain and benefit.”

Arroyo’s lawyers urged the Sandiganbayan to suspend the proceedings on the plunder case filed against the former president.

The lawyers also urged the Sandiganbayan to defer the issuance of a warrant of arrest. They argued Arroyo has not even received a copy of the Review Resolution that found probable cause to indict her.

They also argued that any person under preliminary investigation by the Ombudsman is entitled to file a motion for reconsideration under its rules of procedure.

“A denial of the right to file a motion for reconsideration would also amount to a deprivation of an accused’s right to a full preliminary investigation preparatory to the filing of the information against her,” her lawyers stressed. – Michael Punongbayan