MANILA (UPDATE) - Former President Gloria Arroyo has been ordered released from detention by the Supreme Court (SC) after the high court granted her plea for demurrer to evidence on a plunder case she is facing for the allegedly questionable release of P366 million in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) intelligence funds in her last two years as chief executive.
Voting 11-4, the high court granted Arroyo's petition and reversed the Sandiganbayan First Division's April 6, 2015 and September 10, 2015 resolutions that denied her plea.
Those who voted in favor of Arroyo are Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin (ponente), Presbitero Velasco, Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Mariano Del Castillo, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, Bienvenido Reyes, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, and Francis Jardeleza.
Those who dissented are Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Marvic Leonen, and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa.
In her petition, Arroyo argued that "not 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 said.
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. The release order is immediately executory.
The grant of the demurrer plea amounts to an acquittal of Arroyo, it being a ruling on the weight of the evidence against her. She may not be charged for the same offense due to the principle of "double jeopardy."
Arroyo was charged on the basis of her marginal notes on the requests for the release of the subject PCSO funds. Her camp insists that merely granting the release of the funds did not constitute any liability on her part for its alleged misuse.
Charged along with her and earlier granted to post bail are former PCSO officials and members of its Board of Directors.
The SC had earlier halted Arroyo's plunder trial during the pendency of her petition for demurrer of evidence. The high court issued the first status quo ante order (SQAO) on October 20, 2015; a second SQAO in November 2015; and a third one last May which lapsed on June 20th.