SC issues status quo ante order in Arroyo trial

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 20 2015 07:35 PM | Updated as of Oct 21 2015 07:40 PM

MANILA (UPDATED) - The Supreme Court has issued a 30-day status quo ante order in favor of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in her plunder trial involving over P365-million in confidential Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.

A source said this will suspend the proceedings before the Sandiganbayan for the 30-day period.

Arroyo earlier filed a petition with the Supreme Court after obtaining a favorable ruling from the UN Working Group on Human Rights.

The United Nations Working Group on Human Rights earlier ruled that Arroyo's detention is arbitrary, and the anti-graft court's denial of her bail plea has violated her human rights.

"Mrs. Arroyo was denied bail on grounds that are not compatible with international law; she did not benefit from the presumption in favor of bail; she was denied bail exclusively on the basis of the alleged strength of evidence against her; measures alternative to pre-trial detention were not considered and there were undue delays in considering her bail position in the proceedings against her as a whole," the UN Working Group had ruled.

In a 115-page petition filed last October 15 through her lawyer, former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza, Arroyo asked the high court to expedite the resolution of her petition, set the case for oral arguments, suspend the proceedings before the Sandiganbayan while the case is with the SC, and, as a final plea, order the dismissal of the plunder charge.

Arroyo urged the high court to reverse the Sandiganbayan's resolutions, dated April 6, 2015 and September 10, 2015, that junked her demurrer to evidence, a plea that is raised when a defendant believes the evidence against him or her is weak.

"[N]ot a single exhibit of the 637 exhibits offered by the prosecution nor a single testimony of the 21 witnesses of the prosecution was offered by the prosecution to prove that [Arroyo] amassed, accumulated, or acquired even a single peso of the alleged ill-gotten wealth amounting to P365,997,915.00 or any part of that amount alleged in the Information," Arroyo argued.

Arroyo and several others were charged for the release of over P365-million in confidential/intelligence funds of the PCSO while Arroyo was still President. All of the other accused have been granted bail, except for Arroyo.

The Palace, meanwhile, declined to comment on the reported status quo ante order issued by the high court.

Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said the Palace would want to read first the contents of the ruling. But he said that government is determined to implement and uphold the rule of law.

"Ang tungkulin ng ating pamahalaan ay magpatupad ng batas at ito ay patuloy na ginagampanan dahil ito ay mandato na dapat sundin. Kung anuman ang magiging developments sa usapin ay patuloy pa ring itataguyod ng pamahalaan ang batas at ang katarungan," Coloma said. -- With report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News