GMA arraignment set next week

MANILA, Philippines – Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and two of her co-accused in the P365.9-million plunder case filed by the Office of the Ombudsman with the Sandiganbayan will be arraigned on Oct. 15.

The anti-graft court’s First Division chaired by Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz said the arraignment will be held at 8:30 a.m.

Under the rules of court, Arroyo and her co-accused, former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) officials Sergio Valencia and Benigno Aguas, are required to personally appear before the Sandiganbayan.

The respondents, after the plunder complaint against them is read in open court, will be asked to enter a plea to the charges.

Sandiganbayan executive clerk of court and spokesman Renato Bocar said the Sandiganbayan did not yet schedule former PCSO board member Manuel Morato’s arraignment because the National Bureau of Investigation has yet to officially inform the First Division of his arrest.

Arroyo was arrested Thursday while confined at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC), even as Valencia and Aguas surrendered to the Philippine National Police (PNP) later that day.

Morato, undergoing treatment at the St. Luke’s Medical Center, also surrendered the following day after filing a motion questioning his indictment.

Although it has already scheduled an arraignment date, the Sandiganbayan will still be hearing several motions filed by the respondents on Thursday.

Anacleto Diaz, Arroyo’s legal counsel, said the former president’s legal team is looking at either filing a petition for bail or elevating their arguments to the Supreme Court because they believe the case has no basis.

“(Filing a petition for bail) is a first option that we are considering,” Diaz told The STAR yesterday after the First Division denied their supplemental motion for reconsideration questioning the anti-graft court’s finding of probable cause.

He said they are considering a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court to challenge the decision of the Sandiganbayan to issue arrest orders.

Diaz said that there is no need to file a motion for hospital arrest for now, considering that his client is ill and confined at VMMC on the recommendation of doctors.

“Not one evidence was presented to show that Mrs. Arroyo received the money. The Ombudsman even conceded that GMA did not receive a single cent. So how could there be plunder if there is no showing that GMA amassed, accumulate or acquire ill-gotten wealth,” Diaz, in questioning the plunder charge, earlier stressed.

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Mimosa Golf Estate, Clark Field (Clark Airbase), Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga, Philippines
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