MANILA, Philippines - The lawyers of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo have informed the justices of the Sandiganbayan today that they will go to the Supreme Court to question the lower court’s basis to try the former president for the crime of plunder.
Atty. Anacleto Diaz approached the justices at the bench during the latter part of Thursday's hearing asking them to defer the October 15 arraignment of Arroyo and other detained respondents, saying they will file a petition for certiorari at the high court.
The finding of probable cause in the plunder case involving the alleged misuse of P366 million in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office led to the eventual release of arrest warrants. Arroyo is currently detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center.
The petition will include a request for the issuance of a temporary restraining order, seeking to stop the entire proceedings at the Sandiganbayan for lack of sufficient evidence against Arroyo.
Lead Prosecutor Diosdado Calonge believes this is just a dilatory tactic on the part of Arroyo's lawyers to lengthen her stay at the hospital. Calonge said while it is within the client’s right to seek refuge from the highest court of the land, lawyers will exhaust "all necessary legal means" to delay the proceedings in their favor.
The petition will be monitored closely once filed before the high court, which is now headed by an Aquino appointee – Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
‘Bring Arroyo doctors to court’
The justices of the anti-graft court's first division, on the other hand, challenged Arroyo to prove why she needs to be under hospital arrest for the duration of the trial.
Last Tuesday, the lawyers of Arroyo filed an urgent motion to place the former president under longer hospital arrest.
The hearing on the hospital arrest issue was reset by the Sandiganbayan to October 18, with the justices asking the defense to present witnesses and evidence to prove why she needs to stay at the hospital.
Calonge said there is no compelling reason to place Arroyo under arrest as proven by the medical certificate submitted by VMMC Director Nona Legaspi to the Sandiganbayan stating that "the dehydration is corrected and she (Arroyo) can be discharged.”
Diaz said this does not mean the former president is already in good health, when the same certification also stated that she will be needing at least three times a week of therapy.
He added Arroyo has already lost 35 pounds and is still dehydrated gauging on how she looked during a visit yesterday. He added that given Arroyo's medical state, she clearly cannot conduct any campaign for the 2013 elections.
Nonetheless, Arroyo is fighting her illnesses and continues to show strength despite adversities, he said.
He believes "this will be over soon,” referring to her health and numerous legal cases hounding the former president.
Meanwhile, the prosecution did not object to the motion of former PCSO chairman Sergio Valencia and former Assistant General for Finance Benigno Aquas on their continued stay at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
The motions of former PCSO General Manager Rosario Uriarte, former PCSO Director Manoling Morato, former Commission on Audit Chairman Reynaldo Villar for the reconsideration of the Sandiganbayan’s recognition of probable cause have been deemed submitted for resolution.