MANILA - "Time lost in prison cannot be recovered."
This was the statement of one of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's lawyers, who insisted Friday that the former chief executive should never have been detained.
Arroyo was freed from hospital detention Thursday after being acquitted of plunder by the Supreme Court (SC).
According to Atty. Estelito Mendoza, they had always been confident that Arroyo would eventually be acquitted by the high court since there is no evidence that indicates she stole even a single centavo from Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.
Mendoza also pointed out that Arroyo shared the accusation of stealing P365,997,915 with 9 other individuals, which means dividing it among them will only amount to P36.5 million each, less than the P50 million stated in the law to constitute the crime of plunder.
"There is no greater injury, no greater suffering than for a person to be imprisoned, especially in her case suffering from debilitating illness, to be detained in prison. Time lost in prison cannot be recovered. There should be a basis for compensation but that is up to her," he said.
READ: SC: Arroyo's 'OK' not proof of plunder
Mendoza added that any public official who detains somebody without cause may be committing arbitrary detention, while a private citizen committing such an act may be guilty of illegal detention. However, "criminal intent" has to be present, he said.
In the case of Arroyo, Mendoza admitted he is not sure whether there was criminal intent to detain her, or whether it was just a mistake.
What is clear to him, he said, is that former President Benigno Aquino III had made Arroyo's indictment and detention a primary achievement of his administration.
READ: Why Aquino finds SC's acquittal of Arroyo incredulous
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales already expressed plans of filing another plunder case that happened earlier during Arroyo's presidency.
But Mendoza said this will only raise questions on why it was not filed earlier. This is "dismaying and shocking," he said.
Arroyo's legal team described the Ombudsman's actions to be "oppressive," if not cruel, saying the office seemingly wants to handcuff Arroyo again and bring her back to detention only a day after she was ordered released.
Meanwhile, Mendoza said Arroyo will be preoccupied with adjusting to normal life in the coming days.
He said Arroyo will attend President Rodrigo Duterte's first State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday and make up for the lost time as representative of the 2nd district of Pampanga.
He said Arroyo might file a bill that would prevent preventive detention of public officials even before conviction.
The said practice is done in order to prevent officials from escaping. But since Arroyo is also an elected representative, Mendoza believes it is highly unlikely in her case.
Mendoza also believes the plunder law should be amended and be made more simpler.