MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan denied Thursday a motion from the camp of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to defer her arrest on plunder charges involving the alleged misuse of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.
A report by ABS-CBN correspondent Atom Araullo said the Sandiganbayan 1st Division rejected a motion by the Arroyo camp to stop the implementation of the arrest order.
Aside from Arroyo, the others included in the arrest order 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.
The court has yet to serve the arrest warrant, issued late on Wednesday, 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.
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’s lawyers earlier said they expected the anti-graft court to hold the arrest order in abeyance pending resolution of their motion for reconsideration.
Sandiganbayan clerk of court Atty. Teresita Rosete, however, clarified that the warrant of arrest against Mrs. Arroyo and PCSO officials is still in effect. With reports from Atom Araullo, ABS-CBN News; and Reuters