MANILA - Senator and former Justice Secretary Leila De Lima on Tuesday expressed disappointment over the decision of the Supreme Court dismissing the plunder case against former President Gloria Arroyo.
Voting 11-4, the Supreme Court granted Arroyo's petition and reversed the Sandiganbayan First Division's April 6, 2015 and September 10, 2015 resolutions that denied her plea for demurrer to evidence.
The grant of the demurrer plea will mean Arroyo's release from hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) where she remained in detention on the plunder charge for close to 4 years. It also amounts to an acquittal of Arroyo, it being a ruling on the weight of the evidence against her.
SC grants Arroyo plea, orders her release
De Lima said the SC ruling is not a unanimous decision. She also noted that the decision happened after President Rodrigo Duterte assumed his post.
"Why did they have to wait for a change in administration to issue the ruling?" she asked.
The senator said she has not read the ruling but she is more interested on the dissenting opinions.
For his part, Sen. Koko Pimentel said that he respects the decision of the tribunal. "Respeto na lang. I will have to respect the decision of a co-equal branch," he said.
He also noted that most of the co-accused of the former President were already out on bail.
Pimentel said he will ask Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre for the "batting average" of prosecutors on their cases filed before courts.
"If you have a very low batting average, you better review your processes," he said.
De Lima, who also headed the Justice Department, welcomed Pimentel's suggestion.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, who endured political attacks when Mrs. Arroyo was president, also backed the Supreme Court ruling.
He said the former President "has suffered enough, having spent six years in detention under an extremely difficult physical condition."
"Even for purely humanitarian consideration, I support the Supreme Court's ruling to free her and accord her some comfort for the remaining years of her life, which are not really that many, considering her age," he said.
"As I have repeatedly said, while I will never forget who they are, I have forgiven all my tormentors for the past nine years under her administration, living or dead."
Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero said he will also respect the decision of the Court.
"I don't think the statements of President Duterte [have] anything to do with it as I believe in the independence of the Court," he said.
"I cannot comment on the prosecution given that I am not too learned about the day to day arguments both sides made before the Court."