MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) - The Sandiganbayan has issued an arrest order against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and 9 others due to plunder charges involving the alleged misuse of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.
Included in the warrant of arrest are former PCSO chairman Sergio Valencia, former PCSO vice chairman and general manager Rosario Uriarte, members of the PCSO board of directors Manuel Morato, Jose Taruc V, Raymundo Roquero, and Ma. Fatima Valdes, former PCSO budgets and accounts manager Benigno Aguas, former Commission on Audit chairman Reynaldo Villar, and former head of COA's intelligence/confidential fund audit unit Nilda Plaras.
Lawyers of Mrs. Arroyo, however, manifested an oral motion for reconsideration on the arrest warrant issued by the anti-graft court.
The court has yet to serve the arrest warrant, issued late on Wednesday, to Mrs. Arroyo and 9 other former state officials over allegations of misuse of state lottery funds as it was still clarifying how to proceed with the multiple arrests.
The 65-year-old Arroyo, who was president from 2001 to 2010, is unlikely to escape detention this time around as the charge under the Plunder Law is a non-bailable offense. Plunder carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
She ended about 7 months of detention at an army hospital in July after posting bail on lesser election fraud charges.
The arrest warrant was issued after the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed Arroyo's petition to junk the non-bailable case against her. Arroyo is currently out on bail for a separate charge of electoral sabotage.
Arroyo lawyers question warrant
In his motion, Arroyo lawyer Anacleto Diaz said the arrest warrant should be withdrawn due to lack of probable cause. The other lawyers also noted the lack of credibility of the complainants, which include Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and Danny Lim who are not even PCSO officials or employees.
"Ang binigay nila affidavit ni Baraquel at Danilo Lim eh wala namang personal knowledge nung transaction sa PCSO,” Diaz said.
Sandiganbayan clerk of court Atty. Teresita Rosete clarified that the warrant of arrest against Mrs. Arroyo and PCSO officials is still in effect.
She said the earlier report that Mrs. Arroyo's arrest was put on hold pending review of motion for reconsideration filed by defense was only an interpretation of arroyo's camp.
She said the warrant of arrest is oustanding or still in effect, and the accused including the former president can be arrested anytime.
With reports from Atom Araullo and Zen Hernandez, ABS-CBN News; and Reuters
|Arrest order against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and others. Photo courtesy of Atom Araullo, ABS-CBN News