GMA, Garci Cleared In 2004 Poll Bribery

The Office of the Ombudsman yesterday junked for insufficient evidence a bribery complaint against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stemming from alleged fraud in the May 2004 general elections.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales also cleared former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, former Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines director general and Philippine Ports Authority general manager Alfonso Cusi, PPA manager Efren Bollozos, former justice secretary Agnes Devanadera, former Shariah Circuit Court judge Nagamura Moner and the former president’s husband Jose Miguel Arroyo.

In a 43-page resolution approved on May 25, the Ombudsman said the evidence against the seven was insufficient since “the complaint contains bare allegations and pieces of evidence that are unsubscribed, unauthenticated and recanted affidavits or statements.”

The Ombudsman said the allegations “could not create a well-founded belief that the crimes have been committed and that the accused were probably guilty thereof and should stand trial” under the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The case stemmed from a complaint filed in August 2011 by Pacasirang Batidor, Ahmare Balt Lucman, Hadji Rashid Limbona, and Hadji Abdullah Dalidig.

They alleged the respondents conspired to cheat during the 2004 elections, particularly in Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Tawi-Tawi, Sultan Kudarat, and Cotabato City.

The complaint claimed, among others, that the respondents during the 2004 elections in Mindanao provided transportation through the grant of 12 multi-cab vehicles and the use of a helicopter, and distributed envelopes containing money to unidentified election officers.

The Ombudsman noted, however, that the complainants were not able to identify the election officials that received the supposed bribe.

“In bribery, it is essential that the recipient of the bribe is a public officer. Hence, before a prosecutor can declare that there is probable cause for said felony, there should be proof or showing that the recipient is indeed a public officer. In the present case, nothing of that sort appears. In fact… the supposed recipients of the bribe were not named or sufficiently identified,” the Ombudsman said.

As for allegations of conspiracy, the Ombudsman said the complaints failed to prove its existence.

“For conspiracy to exist, two or more persons must come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decide to commit it,” the Ombudsman said.

The Ombudsman said the same degree of proof required for establishing the crime was also required to support a finding of conspiracy and it must never be presumed.

Mrs. Arroyo, under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City, is currently facing graft and electoral sabotage cases.

Her husband Mike is also facing a separate graft case.

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