MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) issued incorrect information twice in a single day regarding a temporary restraining order (TRO) in connection with a plunder case against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and several others.
At 11:25 Monday morning, the SC Public Information Office (PIO) under Atty. Gleo Guerra sent text messages to reporters that read: "Advisory: The SC PIO will furnish the media, as well as upload today, a copy of the SC TRO on former President GMA's (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) arraignment before the Sandiganbayan on PCSO/plunder case. Fyi."
The case pending before the Sandiganbayan stems from the alleged misuse of over P366-million in intelligence and confidential Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.
Copies of the Resolution of the Third Division, dated October 24, were later distributed.
As it turned out, the TRO covered the Oct. 3 Resolution of the Sandiganbayan which ordered the arrest of petitioner Nilda B. Plaras, former Commission on Audit Auditor, Mrs. Arroyo, and the other co-accused.
Guerra told reporters that while the action of the high court was on Plaras' petition, it also covered the arrest of Mrs. Arroyo, meaning, the high court was also restraining the arrest order against the former chief executive.
A well-placed ABS-CBN News source, however, pointed out that the TRO issued by the high court only covered Plaras, and that Mrs. Arroyo's petition against the Sandiganbayan and the Office of the Ombudsman, incidentally filed also on Oct. 24, was not yet tackled by the magistrates.
In a text message sent to Guerra at 1:03 pm, ABS-CBN News asked Guerra if she had already clarified the coverage of the TRO with Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco, Jr., Third Division chairman and upon whose authority the TRO was issued. To which her reply was: "We are doing it now."
Before 3 o'clock in the afternoon on Monday, Guerra sent a statement via email backtracking on her previous statements, and stressing that the TRO, in fact, does not cover Mrs. Arroyo.
"This is to clarify that the October 24, 2012 temporary restraining order issued by the Court's Third Division in GR Nos. 203693-94, Plaras v. Sandiganbayan, enjoins the implementation of the warrant of arrest against petitioner Nilda B. Plaras as ordered in the assailed resolution of the Sandiganbayan dated October 3, 2012 in Criminal Case No. SB-12-CRM-0174," she said.
The confusion was aggravated by the "dignified silence" rule of the Sereno Supreme Court where press conferences and interviews have been ordered barred by the new Chief Justice.