Government rests plunder case vs Arroyo

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

GOVERNMENT prosecutors rested on Wednesday their case before the Sandiganbayan against Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and several others for the alleged malversation of the P366-million confidential and intelligence fund (CIF) of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

Special Prosecutor Hazel Militante made the formal manifestation at the hearing, saying they had no more witnesses to present against Arroyo and her co-accused.

The former president’s legal counsel Laurence Arroyo said that the prosecution had presented 14 witnesses but no one has made any testimony directly linking the Pampanga lawmaker to the disbursement of the PCSO fund.

The lawyer said the announcement of the prosecution surprised them because of an earlier manifestation to the anti-graft court that the government still has six to 10 witnesses.

He added that the decision of the prosecution is most welcome since it will give them the chance to seek other legal remedies to effect the dismissal of the case against the former President and release her from detention.

Arroyo's lawyer noted that Commission on Audit (COA) Director Flerida Jimenez last week “virtually cleared” the former President, saying all confidential and intelligence funds subject of the case was duly liquidated.

He noted that another main witness, PCSO Director Aleta Tolentino, had also testified that they had no evidence to show if the accused, including the former chief executive, pocketed or benefited from the CIF.

Arroyo, former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte, former chairpersons Sergio Valencia and Manuel Morato, former directors Raymundo Roquero, Fatima Valdes and Jose Taruc V, former COA chairman Reynaldo Villar and former COA-Intelligence Fund Unit head Nilda Plaras were charged with plunder for their allegedly conspiring in the misuse of PCSO confidential and intelligence fund from 2008 to early 2010.

Valencia, Morato, Roquero, Taruc and Villar were granted bail while Valdes remains at large.

Villar, who was recently arrested, is awaiting resolution of his bail petition while Plaras was able to secure an injunction from the Supreme Court. She continues to work as COA director.

Only Arroyo and Aguas are under detention after their bail petitions were denied.

Atty. Arroyo stated that they intend to file a demurrer to evidence as soon as the court resolves the prosecution’s formal offer of documentary evidence.

A demurrer to evidence is filed by an accused after the prosecution rests its case. It submits the case for judgment based solely on the prosecution’s evidence on the ground that the evidence presented against the accused is not enough or insufficient to warrant a conviction.

“President Arroyo’s supposed co-conspirators have all been granted bail except for her and Aguas. This seriously undermines the prosecution’s conspiracy theory,” the lawyer said. (John Carlo Cahinhinan/Sunnex)

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