FORMER President and now Pampanga’s 2nd District Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is finally free after four years of hospital arrest at Veterans Memorial Medical Center.
Arroyo’s freedom came after the Supreme Court acquitted her on Tuesday from the P366 million Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office plunder case filed by the Office of the Ombudsman. She was released from detention early Thursday evening, two days after the high court reversed an earlier decision of the Sandiganbayan rejecting the demurrer to evidence filed by Arroyo’s legal team.
A demurrer to evidence is a motion claiming that the evidence presented is weak and therefore insufficient in point of law.
In this case Arroyo’s lawyer, Estilito Mendoza, filed the demurrer to evidence before the anti-graft court claiming that despite the voluminous evidence presented by the prosecution, there is nothing there indicating his client’s guilt.
The plunder case against the former head of state stems from her alleged anomalous disbursement of P366 million (about US $7.9 million) from the PCSO’s general fund to the president’s intelligence fund.
The Ombudsman says that out of the total amount of the missing intelligence funds, P244 million plus went to the Office of the President (OP), P140 million of which were given to the said office from January to June, 2010.
After receiving a copy of the Supreme Court’s decision freeing Ms. Arroyo, the Sandiganbayan’s First Division issued a minute resolution directing the Philippine National Police (PNP) to immediately release the former president from hospital detention.
Meanwhile, former President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, in a statement released to the media, questioned the decision of the high tribunal to dismiss the plunder case against Ms. Arroyo, his former economics teacher.
“By ordering the release and exoneration of Mrs. Arroyo, what is the Supreme Court saying: That nothing anomalous transpired? That no crime happened? That no one should be held to account? That the funds were used properly?” Aquino asked.
Aquino said the funds from PCSO were transferred to the Office of the President for bilateral and security relation such as “bomb threat, kidnapping, destabilization and terrorism” during the term of Arroyo.
Over the course of three years, a total of P365 million got transferred to the Office of the President and used for activities not sanctioned by the PCSO’s charter, Aquino added.