Arroyo, Making Accountable For Stealing Presidency

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.

Philippines Try To Find New Charges Against Arroyo

Former Philippine President and now Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo arrives at the Pasay City Court, in suburban Manila, in February 2012. The Philippine government ombudsman called for graft charges to be filed against Arroyo for unproven diversion of state lottery funds in the latest accusation to hit her. Arroyo remains confined in a government hospital while facing charges of vote-rigging.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, whose office is in charge of investigating government officials, called on an anti-graft court to file “plunder” charges against Arroyo and nine other government officials. The Ombudsman said it had found Arroyo, 65, and the others, mostly former state lottery officials, had diverted about 366 million pesos ($8.7 million) in lottery funds from 2008 to 2010.

“The respondents’ series or combination of acts form a pattern… of misuse and raid of (lottery funds) from 2008-2010… all while taking advantage of their respective official functions,” the statement said. It did not say what became of the money but Arroyo critics have alleged that it was used in the 2010 presidential and legislative elections.

If convicted of the crime, Arroyo, who stepped down in 2010 amid charges of graft and manipulating elections, could face 20 years in jail.

Arroyo’s lawyer Anaceleto Diaz said the new accusation was devoid of merit, adding it was “another dark day for the rule of law”. He said in a statement it was just part of a campaign that President Benigno Aquino had been running against Arroyo, his chief political opponent.

Aquino, who was elected in a landslide in 2010, has long accused Arroyo of massive corruption and other abuses of power and has declared his intention of seeing her jailed.

Arroyo, who was in office for nearly a decade, was arrested late last year on charges of allegedly rigging the 2007 senatorial elections. She also faces charges of approving an allegedly anomalous contract to set up a national government broadband system. She, who was elected to Congress in 2010, is confined in a government hospital while suffering from what she says is a rare spinal disease.

Corona In ICU, Can’t Return To Senate Today

Chief Justice Renato Corona will have to remain under treatment and observation at the hospital’s intensive care unit at the Medical City for about 48 to 72 hours according to the doctors. Prior to this happening, Corona will be incapable of returning to the Senate today for his scheduled cross examination.

The chief justice who went through already two heat bypass operations last 1995 and 2008 was brought to the Medical City last night at 8 p.m. (Tuesday) after his 3-hour statement and a followed up controversial walk out from the impeachment court.

Midas Marquez, Supreme Court spokesman, who went with Corona and his family in the hospital, said in an interview that he stayed with Corona from 8p.m. until midnight. He added that prior of his leaving, the chief justice gave him an assurance that he would be returning to the Senate for his scheduled cross examination (supposedly today).

“I left the hospital past midnight. I was able to briefly talk with the chief justice, and he assured me that he would appear this afternoon. When I got home a few minutes later, I got the unfortunate news that he was transferred to the ICU,” Marquez said.

The lawyers for the defense of Corona said in the radio interviews that the judge may not be able to immediately return to the Senate for his scheduled cross examination due to his medical condition.

“Latest was he has an elevated [troponin T level], a prelude to a heart attack. His condition is now being stablized in the ICU of Medical City,” Ramon Esguerra told the media on Wednesday morning.

48-hour monitoring

As of 9 a.m., Esguerra said that the chief justice is already in a stable condition but still has to remain in the intensive care unit (ICU) for the next 24 hours for proper monitoring and as to what the hospital doctors’ advised.

3 doctors of the Medical City have released a medical bulletin at around 10 a.m. today about the chief justice’s condition explaining that Corona may have suffered from an acute coronary syndrome or simply heart attack.

It was also mentioned by the doctors including senior vice president for medical services, Dr. Eugenio Jose Ramos, which they had to confine Corona in the ICU because of the reason that he is considered a high-risk cardiac patient.

Furthermore, the doctors said that Corona, a diabetic person, also is suffering from a renal failure that they ruled out another surgery for the chief justice. And they stated as well that they would not be allowing Corona to return to the Senate because he should be under strict monitoring.

The Senate has sent its own medical team to the hospital to check on Corona’s medical condition.

Lawyer Karen Jimeno cited that she would want Corona to return to the Senate and face the impeachment court again on Wednesday afternoon.


Juan Ponce Enrile, Senate President, who was then sitting as the ruling judge in the impeachment court, affirmed that he will strike out Corona’s testimony if the chief justice failsto return for his scheduled cross examination.

Enrile highlighted that Corona’s walk out was indeed a sign of disrespect to the Senate as an impeachment court.

Enumerated in Corona’s 3-hour statement, he refused that he retained 82 dollar accounts, 31 peso accounts and 45 properties as suspected by the prosecution and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Prior to Corona’s walk out, he signed a waiver allowing the government and selected banking institutions to inspect and show in public all his bank records that includes his dollar deposits.

Though, he stated in his waiver that it would only be effective if the 188 other congressmen who signed his impeachment order and even Senator Franklin Drilon would be also open with regards to their bank accounts for examination.

After the signing of the waiver and raising the challenge, Corona told the court: “The Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines wishes to be excused.”

He stood up and left the floor, leaving the confused crowd and senator-judges. Even his lawyers asserted that they were not immediately informed of Corona’s reason for leaving the room without being properly discharged.

Enrile immediately ordered the Senate security to lock down the compound as soon as Corona left the session hall. Corona was then wheeled back to the session hall afterwards.

It was excused by Corona’s lawyers and his son-in-law doctor that the witness left the witness stand because he did not want to throw up and collapse in the session hall’s room.

The defense team said Corona suffered from hypoglycemia.

Marquez suspected that Corona’s hypoglycemic episode during the hearing could have been part of his heart attack. He also said that they were informed at the hospital that disorientation could be one of the symptoms of heart attack.

“I noticed that when he stood up from the witness stand, he did not know where to go. That’s what they say, when you suffer a heart attack you get disoriented,” he said.

The Senator-Judge said that Corona’s illness and hospitalization does not excuse his actions at the Senate impeachment court that is scheduled on Tuesday.

Pia Cayetano said in an ANC interview that no witness or acused should hold the court hostage by his wishes and demands.

“He (Corona) wanted to be the witness and the judge because he didn’t wait for the response of the Presiding Officer. He wanted to present his evidence but sinama pa niya pati si Senator-Judge ([Franklin] Drilon,” Cayetano said.

Moreover, Cayetano said that the senator-judges will hold an assembly to probably discuss Corona’s condition.

However, Marquez said that Corona has no intention at all to disrespect the Senate. He added that the chief justice knows that under the rules of court that refusal to be cross-examined may lead to striking out of the witness’ testimony.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for Corona said he does not think Corona will resign despite poor health.

“In the five- to six-month period I’ve been with the Chief Justice. He has explained to us [that] for this case, for the judiciary, for this country, he is willing to lay down his life. He told us to proceed and fight…even against the wishes of his doctors and hisfamily, ilalaban niya ito,” Dennis Manalo said in an ANC interview.

Manalo uttered that the defense team hopes that Corona will be well enough to continue his testimony because they would not want the impeachment court to decide on the case under the present conditions.

“We are at the mercy of 23 senators who can say that ‘we don’t take that excuse, won’t accept that excuse, and not hear the rest of his (Corona’s) testimony anymore. We don’t want this case to be decided under these circumstances, it would be tragic on our part after working so hard,” said Manalo.

Tranquil Salvador, also a member of the defense team, said that they may ask the Senate court to “reset the testimony due to Corona’s illness.”

Salvador said that the rule of court allows the cancellation of a hearing if an indispensable witness is sick.

Government Workers To Get Salary Increase Early

Impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona supposedly has at least $10 million in his bank accounts that the Ombudsman is now asking him to explain, regardless of his peso accounts and real estate properties.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, asked Corona to explain in writing within 72 hours how he obtained several peso and dollar accounts, allegedly “grossly disproportionate” to his salary, in different banks.

The order was dated April 20 and served on Corona on April 23.

“This office finds that there is reasonable ground to proceed further with the conduct of an inquiry vis-à-vis the charges that you, during your incumbency as a public officer, accumulated wealth that is purportedly grossly disproportionate to your salary and other lawful income,” Morales said in the April 20, 2012 order.

Furthermore, Morales mentioned in the letter that she had received information that “there are several bank accounts in PSBank and several other banks in your (Corona’s) name, including those denominated in US dollars the aggregate value of which amounts to at least US$10,000,000.”

Through his lawyer, Ramon Esguerra, Corona responded with a terse four-point reply: (1) I do not own 10M. It simply does not exist. (2) It’s part of the black propaganda and mind-conditioning preparatory to the resumption of trial on May 7. (3) No different from the phoney LRA [Land Registration Authority] list, phoney US property list, phoney surveys, phoney letters to the Inquirer editor, etc., etc. (4) The Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over the Chief Justice.

Three complaints

Appealing her powers under Republic Act No. 6770, which describes the powers and functions of the Office of the Ombudsman, Morales asked Chief Justice to reply in writing to the complaints and to the information regarding his claimed accounts in several banks.

Morales quoted 3 complaints filed against Corona before her office for violation of anti-graft laws, raising the Ombudsman’s power to examine impeachable officers for serious misconduct, including violations of RA 9194, or the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2001.

“They claim that you do not have the means to acquire properties in substantial amounts, supposedly considering your ‘indicated net worth, modest means and salary as a Chief Justice,’” the Ombudsman said in her letter to Corona.

Complainants Ruperto Aleroza, Gibby Gorres, Harvey Keh, Risa Hontiveros and Albert Concepcion sought to have Corona investigated for allegedly amassing “real and personal properties in significant amounts” and not declaring them in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) as required by law.

A complaint that was dated Feb. 17, it was stated that 10 pieces of real property which were presented by the House prosecution in Corona’s impeachment trial at the Senate. These include supposedly “posh” units at the Bellagio, Spanish Bay, The Columns, One Burgundy Plaza condominium developments and houses in the La Vista and Ayala Heights gated communities.

The complainants also mentioned that Corona’s alleged 10 peso accounts and two dollar accounts at Philippine Savings Bank (PSBank) and five peso accounts with Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI).

A second complaint was filed on March 1 by party-list member Walden Bello (Akbayan), Earnest Francis Calayag, Moses Mikael SD Albiento and Tristan Diane Brioso Zinampan.

They appealed that Corona under declared the values of his real properties in his SALN and did not declare his property in La Vista, Quezon City, and in McKinley Hills, Taguig.

They claimed that the “actual value of his personal properties in the amount of P31,752,623.00 exceeded the declared value in his SALN by P27,252,623.09.”

“According to complainants, the real and personal properties supposedly owned by you and your family are manifestly out of proportion to your salary as public officer, as well as other lawful income, during your respective tenures as associate justice and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,” the Ombudsman said.

A third complaint dated March 28 was filed by Emmanuel Tiu Santos who said Corona had unexplained wealth consisting of P24.6 million in five accounts at PSBank and P12 million with BPI.

Santos, citing reports published in the Inquirer, pointed out that Corona also withdrew P32.6 million on the day he was impeached.

Trial resumes May 7

“While you may only be removed from office through impeachment proceedings, this office has, as reflected earlier, the power and duty to investigate you for any serious misconduct in office for the purpose of filing a verified complaint for impeachment, if warranted. It was on this account that this Office conducted an initial evaluation on the complaints,” the Ombudsman said.

The Ombudsman’s move comes as Corona’s impeachment trial at the Senate resumes on May 7 after Congress returns from a six-week break.

It will be the turn of the defense to present its case for Corona.

The prosecution sought to subpoena Corona’s alleged dollar accounts, but the Supreme Court stopped the Senate from compelling the banks to submit documents on the alleged dollar accounts.

Corona has said he would open his bank accounts to public scrutiny in due time.