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SC asked to resolve GMA plunder case

Former solicitor general Estelito Mendoza believes there is no more legal basis to keep former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in detention other than being “treated like a trophy of an achievement of this present administration.” Philstar.com/File

MANILA, Philippines – The camp of detained former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to rule on her petition to end her trial for plunder before the Sandiganbayan.

Her lawyer, former solicitor general Estelito Mendoza, also urged the SC to decide on her plea to stop the anti-graft court from trying her for the remaining case, which involves the P366-million fund of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

“It is very unfair. The former president has been in detention for three years. She is sick. She is being arbitrarily detained. She does not deserve to be in detention a day longer,” Mendoza told SC reporters in an interview.

The lawyer lamented that Arroyo is being treated unfairly because most of the other accused in the plunder case – including all the PCSO directors who approved the disbursements – have been acquitted.

Mendoza believes there is no more legal basis to keep Arroyo in detention other than being “treated like a trophy of an achievement of this present administration.”

He made the appeal after the 120-day status quo ante order, which the SC issued to halt the proceedings before the Sandiganbayan First Division, lapsed last Feb. 19.

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The case against Arroyo, he stressed, is weak as the prosecution failed to present evidence to establish or even support its allegations.

“In all my years as a defense lawyer, a prosecution lawyer, a solicitor general for 14 years, I have never seen a case like this when an accused is being detained without any single evidence produced to establish that she committed the crime charged,” Mendoza said.

“In fact, not a single exhibit in the 637 exhibits offered by the prosecution or a single testimony of the 21 witnesses prove that she amassed, accumulated or acquired even a single peso of the P365-million CIF (confidential intelligence funds) alleged in the information,” Mendoza claimed.

He questioned the Sandiganbayan’s denial of Arroyo’s plea to have the case dismissed via demurrer and accused the court of creating a new law on plunder.

The SC should correct this “grave abuse of discretion committed by the Sandiganbayan and not allow the conviction of Mrs. Arroyo based on just one fact – that she was the president of the Philippines from the period January 2008 to June 2010,” he added.

Arroyo filed a petition in April last year to ask the SC to reverse the final Sandiganbayan ruling that denied her motion to post bail. She reiterated this plea in October last year, citing a report from the United Nations Technical Working Group on Arbitrary Detention that recommended her release from detention.

The UN panel, composed of five independent human rights experts, said Arroyo’s application for bail was “in accordance with relevant international human rights standards.”

Amal Clooney, international human rights lawyer and wife of actor George Clooney, represented Arroyo in the UN.

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