MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) has junked petitions filed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo against the joint Department of Justice (DOJ)-Commission on Elections (Comelec) panel that probed and subsequently filed electoral sabotage charges against her in connection with alleged massive cheating in the 2007 midterm polls in the province of Maguindanao.
A well-placed ABS-CBN News source bared that the voting during the Sept. 18 en banc session was unanimous in junking Mrs. Arroyo's petitions on the basis of her having been arraigned before a Pasay City trial court on the charges.
The high court ruled that this rendered her petitions before the high court moot and academic.
In the still-unreleased en banc decision penned by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, the high court ruled that the former president has already pleaded her case by entering a "not guilty" plea.
As to the question of the constitutionality of the joint probe, majority of the justices are of the opinion that the joint probe was valid and legal.
The majority maintained that during the course of the joint Comelec-DOJ probe on Mrs. Arroyo, the poll body was taking the lead and the DOJ was merely deputized, and under the control and supervision of the poll body. The majority also pointed out that it was the Comelec en banc which approved the filing of the information against Mrs. Arroyo before the Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC).
Four dissented, namely: Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Roberto Abad and Jose Catral-Mendoza. They argued that the creation of the joint panel is unconstitutional since the Comelec alone is tasked to investigate election offenses.
The source informed ABS-CBN News that all magistrates had fixed their signatures on the decision, but its promulgation has been stalled at the chambers of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.