MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - The Sandiganbayan First Division has denied the request of former President Gloria Arroyo and former PCSO officials Sergio Valencia, Manuel Morato and Benigno Aguas for a Christmas furlough.
In a 9-page ruling, the anti-graft court said the separate petitions of the 4 lack merit. All 4 are charged with plunder, a nonbailable offense, for the alleged misuse of P366 million pesos in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) confidential intelligence funds from 2007 to 2010.
In Arroyo's case, the court stressed that ordinary prisoners are not allowed to go home and enjoy certain privileges. Allowing Arroyo to do so will show partiality in her favor, the court said.
The court also expressed doubts on Arroyo's claims that the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, where Arroyo is confined, will allow all therapists to go off duty when there are still other patients in the hospital.
In her petition, the former leader argued there will be no one to take care of her since the VMMC staff will allow their therapists to go on leave for the holidays. The court said this "runs counter to the very essence of medical institutions."
The court also does not see why Arroyo cannot arrange for substitute therapists at the VMMC when she could arrange this in Pampanga.
Lastly, the court said it cannot invoke as precedent the Christmas furloughs granted to former president Joseph Estrada as the court was not provided details of that furlough.
The court also cited similar reasons for denying the petitions of Morato, Aguas and Valencia.
Arroyo wanted a Christmas furlough from December 21 to January 7, which she intended to spend in her hometown of Lubao, Pampanga. She said doctors from the local hospital will be attending to her medical needs.
Aguas wanted a furlough from December 24 to January 2, Morato from December 20 to January 4 and Valencia, December 24 to January 2, 2013.
Last year, the Pasay regional trial court trying the electoral sabotage case against Mrs. Arroyo allowed the former President’s family to spend the holidays with her inside detention.
Arroyo has since been allowed to post bail for that charge but was shortly re-arrested for the plunder case over the alleged misuse of PCSO funds.