Last Monday, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales filed before the Sandiganbayan plunder charges against Gloria Arroyo who is now detained at the V. Luna Medical Center and nine others for allegedly pocketing P365, 997,915 from confidential and intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office in several transfers from January 2008 to June 2010.
Charged along with Arroyo were former PCSO Board of Directors chairman Sergio O. Valencia; former PCSO general manager Rosario C. Uriarte; former PCSO directors Manuel L. Morato, Jose R. Taruc V, Raymundo T. Roquero and Ma. Fatima A. S. Valdes; former PCSO budget officer Benigno B. Aguas; former Commission on Audit chairman Reynaldo A. Villar; and former COA-Intelligence Fund Unit head Nilda B. Plaras.
It’s good that COA officials have been included for being complicit to the crime. Their job is supposed to fiscalize government expenditures to make sure that government funds are spent according to the law.
The case was based on the complaint filed by Bayan Muna, Akbayan and Kilusang Makabayang Ekonomiya.
Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño hailed the filing of the case even if it took more than a year.
“This is good development considering that the Ombudsman struck with our original charge of plunder and we hope that the case can now move faster,” he said referring to the plunder case involving the NBN-ZTE deal which the Ombudsman downgraded to graft, which is bailable.
Carpio-Morales is known to be rigorous and would not be filing half-baked cases that would have a high chance of being dismissed.
Those who want to hold Arroyo accountable for her crimes against the Filipino people can now heave a sigh of relief that even if Judge Jesus Mupas of the Pasay City Regional Trial Court grants bail to Arroyo or even dismisses the electoral sabotage case on the 2007 election, she still would remain in detention once the Sandiganbayan finds existence of probable cause for plunder and issues an arrest warrant within 10 days after the filing of the case.
Plunder, which is pocketing government funds P50 million and more, is a capital offense and requires mandatory detention for all defendants without bail for the duration of the trial. The penalty is reclusion perpetua which is imprisonment from 20 years and one day to 40 years.
Government prosecutors handling the electoral sabotage case against Arroyo may now stop bending the law and at the expense of the victims of the Maguindano massacre and other electoral fraud cases just to keep Arroyo in detention.
The 2007 electoral sabotage case has already served the purpose of the Aquino government, which was to keep Arroyo in detention pending the filing of another unbailable case.
But I would still want Arroyo to be accountable what for me is her greatest crime against the Filipino people, which was the stealing of presidency in the 2004 elections. Archbishop Oscar Cruz calls it Arroyo’s “original sin.”
It would not be electoral sabotage because that became a law only in 2007. There should be a law that she violated. Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act? Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees? It should be put on record that she was convicted for stealing the presidency.