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PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

BIR TOLD TO PROBE MAR ROXAS CAMPAIGN FINANCIER
[RELATED: Smartmatic admitted secret servers – Bongbong]
[RELATED(2): Sandiganbayan issues hold departure order vs. ex-VP Binay, son Junjun]


JULY 19 -In line with his vow to stop corruption in government, President Duterte has asked the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to check taxes paid by a businessman who was among the top campaign financiers of losing presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II.
Duterte told the BIR to probe Francis Eric Gutierrez, owner of SR Metals Inc. (SRMI), a nickel mine operator in Agusan del Norte penalized by the government in 2007 for alleged over-mining. The President has accused Roxas of being a protector of SRMI since the former interior and local government secretary used Gutierrez’s plane during his campaign. “All businessmen should pay taxes. They are many… citing Gutierrez (as an example). There should be no exemptions. He cannot only destroy Tubay in Agusan del Norte,” Duterte said during a fellowship dinner of the San Beda College of Law alumni at Malacañang’s Heroes Hall on Sunday. He said he was focused on eliminating drugs, crime and corruption before digging in on Gutierrez. READ MORE...RELATED, Smartmatic admitted secret servers – Bongbong... RELATED(2), Sandiganbayan issues hold departure order vs. ex-VP Binay, son Junjun...

ALSO: Supreme Court frees Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (14-4)
[RELATED: SC junks plunder case vs CGMA, orders immediate release]


JULY 19 -Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now Pampanga representative, has been under hospital arrest since 2012. File photo
The Supreme Court has dismissed a plunder case against Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over her alleged misuse of the intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. SC spokesperson Theodore Te announced at a televised press conference that the high court dismissed the case against Arroyo for lack of evidence. The court also ordered the immediate release of Arroyo, who is currently under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center. Four SC justices voted against the dismissal of Arroyo's case - Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, Justice Marvic Leonen and Justice Alfredo Caguioa. "The Chief Justice and Justice Leonen submitted separate dissenting opinions. Justice (Arturo) Brion submitted a separate concurring opinion. Justice (Estela) Perlas-Bernabe submitted a separate concurring and dissenting opinion," Te said. Arroyo lawyer Raul Lambino also told ANC in a phone interview that papers for Arroyo's release are already being processed. READ MORE...RELATED,
SC junks plunder case vs CGMA, orders immediate release...

ALSO: SC acquittal proves ‘political persecution’
[RELATED: Mike Arroyo on SC ruling: Thank God, Gloria is innocent]


JULY 19 -Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now Pampanga representative, has been under hospital arrest since 2012. File photo 
The legal spokesman of former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, Ferdinand Topacio, on Tuesday said they are grateful for the Supreme Court’s decision to acquit former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of plunder charges. Topacio said the acquittal only proves that the case of Macapagal-Arroyo is politically motivated.
“The Supreme Court has once again proven itself to be the final bastion of justice and the rule of law,” Topacio said in a statement. “Its ruling today has validated what we have been saying for six years now: that the charges against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are nothing more than disingenuous attempts at political persecution by a corrupt and inept Aquino administration intent on covering up its gross lack of accomplishments by harassing its political opponents,” he added. The former first gentleman echoed Topacio’s statement saying the previous administration took away six years of his wife's life by detaining her. "Thank God. We're very happy. They took away six years of her life. An innocent woman," Arroyo said. READ MORE...RELATED, Mike Arroyo on SC ruling: Thank God, Gloria’s innocent...

ALSO: Senators throw mixed reactions over SC ruling to free Arroyo
[RELATED: SC frees Gloria: Anti-GMA groups slam acquittal]


JULY 19 -FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2012 file photo, former Philippine President and now Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, center, arrives at a Pasay City Court for her arraignment on electoral fraud charges in Manila. The Philippine Supreme Court has dismissed the plunder charge against former PresidentArroyo, ordering her immediate release from nearly five years of hospital detention. Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said Tuesday, July 19, 2016, the 15 justices voted 11-4 granting Arroyo’s petition seeking the dismissal of the remaining plunder case against her before an anti-graft court for lack of evidence. The case is about the alleged misuse of 366 million pesos ($7.8 million) of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office fund. AP/Bullit Marquez, File
A few senators have expressed support while others were dismayed over the ruling of the Supreme Court to dismiss the plunder case against former president and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Voting 11-4, the high court decided to dismiss the case against Arroyo over her alleged misuse of the intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Arroyo has suffered enough for spending six years in detention and that he supports the SC ruling to free and accord her comfort. "As I have repeatedly said, while I will never forget who they are, I have forgiven all my tormentors for the past nine years under her administration, living or dead," Lacson said in a statement. Sen. Gregorio Honasan II said that the SC decision to acquit the former president is a "triumph of the rule of law and of due process" while Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III said that the SC ruling should be respected as a co-equal branch of government. READ MORE...RELATED, SC frees Gloria: Anti-GMA groups slam acquittal...

ALSO SC: Evidence vs Arroyo insufficient; see how the justices voted
[HIGH TRIBUNAL ORDERS EX-PRESIDENT'S 'IMMEDIATE' RELEASE]
[RELATED FROM MANILA TIMES: Supreme Court acquits Arroyo]
[
The Malacañang Palace, now occupied by the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, urged the public to accept the decision. “The Supreme Court has spoken. Let us respect and abide by the High Court’s decision,” it said in a brief statement. Senator Leila de Lima, who ordered Arroyo’s arrest as Justice secretary under the Aquino administration, cast doubt on Tuesday’s court decision, saying: “Why do they have to wait for the change of administration to issue that ruling?”]


JULY 19 -Former president and now Pampanga congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO
The Supreme Court en banc, voting 11-4, ordered the immediate release from detention of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo after it dismissed the P366-million plunder charge against her in connection with the alleged misuse of the intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).
The high court dismissed the criminal case against Arroyo and former PCSO budget officer Benigno Aguas “for insufficiency of evidence and orders the immediate release from detention of said petitioners.” It made no pronouncement on the costs of the suit. Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te, in a press briefing Tuesday said the case has been promulgated and the decision “will have to be served first” to concerned parties to facilitate their release. The former Philippine President has been on hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center since October 2012 following the decision of the Sandiganbayan that ordered her arrest and detention. READ MORE...RELATED Supreme Court acquits Arroyo...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:
Or go online: PHNO HEADLINE NEWS THIS PAST WEEK

BIR told: Probe Mar campaign financier


President Duterte has asked the Bureau of Internal Revenue to check taxes paid by a businessman who was among the top campaign financiers of losing presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II. Roxas campaign/Released

MANILA, JULY 25, 2016 (PHILSTAR) By Christina Mendez  Updated July 19, 2016 - In line with his vow to stop corruption in government, President Duterte has asked the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to check taxes paid by a businessman who was among the top campaign financiers of losing presidential candidate Manuel Roxas II.

Duterte told the BIR to probe Francis Eric Gutierrez, owner of SR Metals Inc. (SRMI), a nickel mine operator in Agusan del Norte penalized by the government in 2007 for alleged over-mining.

The President has accused Roxas of being a protector of SRMI since the former interior and local government secretary used Gutierrez’s plane during his campaign.

“All businessmen should pay taxes. They are many… citing Gutierrez (as an example). There should be no exemptions. He cannot only destroy Tubay in Agusan del Norte,” Duterte said during a fellowship dinner of the San Beda College of Law alumni at Malacañang’s Heroes Hall on Sunday.

He said he was focused on eliminating drugs, crime and corruption before digging in on Gutierrez.

READ MORE...

“I will take away the privilege of granting huge tax exemptions… You don’t know they have helicopters, airplanes,” the President said, referring to Gutierrez.

He urged businessmen not to fool around with tax payments, saying he would take away tax exemptions of some businesses to improve revenue collection.

Duterte said he would also end online gambling.

“There is no way of knowing how to collect taxes on gambling bets outside the Philippines because it operates online. So this has to stop,” he said.

Duterte also threatened to take back logging concessions if these businesses fail to do their part in environment protection.

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Smartmatic admitted secret servers – Bongbong By Perseus Echeminada (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 23, 2016 - 12:00am 0 28 googleplus1 1


Marcos’ camp earlier revealed the existence of a “fourth server” or “Queue Server” that had been kept secret from the public by both the Comelec and Smartmatic. AP/File photo

MANILA, Philippines – The camp of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. expressed elation yesterday over the admission of an official of automated poll service provider Smartmatic that there was not just one but several other servers that existed in the Automated Election System (AES) apart from those sanctioned by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) during the May 9 polls.

Marcos’ spokesman Vic Rodriguez said there was a major breakthrough in the case with the admission of Marlon Garcia, head of the Technical Support Team of Smartmatic, that aside from the three servers sanctioned by the Comelec in the transmission of votes, there also existed a “meet me room” where several servers were placed.

Marcos’ camp earlier revealed the existence of a “fourth server” or “Queue Server” that had been kept secret from the public by both the Comelec and Smartmatic.

“This is a good day for Senator Marcos’ quest for truth because they (Smartmatic) finally admitted the existence of several other servers aside from the three legally authorized servers,” Rodriguez said.

He said that instead of the votes being transmitted directly to the three servers, namely the Municipal Board of Canvassing server, the Comelec server and the Transparency server, the results were first coursed through a Queue server.

He said that this Queue server was not revealed to the public and never subjected to a source code review, unlike the other servers used in the elections, according to Rodriguez.

There were no watchers allowed for the fourth server, he said.

Ever since the camp of Marcos made the disclosure about the existence of the “Queue Server” last May, both the Comelec and Smartmatic have been tight-lipped on its existence.

However, during the clarificatory hearing at the Manila Prosecutor’s Office on the violation of the Cybercrime Law complaint filed by former Abakada representative Jonathan de la Cruz against Smartmatic and Comelec personnel, Garcia admitted that there existed a “meet me room” where several servers were located. – With Jose Rodel Clapano

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RELATED(2) NEWS FROM GMA NEWS ONLINE

Sandiganbayan issues hold departure order vs. ex-VP Binay, son Junjun Published July 19, 2016 9:20am Updated July 19, 2016 10:03am By ELIZABETH MARCELO, GMA News

The Sandiganbayan on Tuesday issued a hold departure order (HDO) against former Vice President Jejomar Binay Sr., his son, dismissed Makati mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr. and 19 others in connection with criminal cases over the allegedly anomalous construction of the P2.28-billion Makati parking building.

The Sandiganbayan Third Division's order bars the two Binays and the other respondents in the cases from leaving the country except when there is prior approval from the anti-graft court.

The court directed the Bureau of Immigration to include the names of the Binays and the other respondents in the bureau’s Hold Departure List.

“This Court, in the exercise of its inherent power to use all means necessary to carry its orders into effect, more specifically, to preserve and maintain the effectiveness of its jurisdiction over the case/s…Hereby orders the Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration to hold departure from the Philippines of the above named accused,” a copy of the HDO read.

Separate set of HDOs was issued for each charge against the respondents in connection with the Makati parking building anomaly.

Daniel Subido, lawyer of Binay, said that the HDO has no effect on the cases being heard by the anti-graft court against his client.

"A Hold Departure Order is a necessary consequence of the mere filing of an Information in the Sandiganbayan. It is applicable to all," Subido said.

"We are confident that these frivolous cases will be dismissed," he added.

Binay Sr. is facing four counts of graft, nine counts of falsification of public documents and one count of malversation of public funds in connection with the anomaly.

The younger Binay, meanwhile, is facing two counts of graft and one count of malversation as co-accused of his father.

These are apart from the graft and falsification of public documents cases that the Office of the Ombudsman had filed against the younger Binay in February of this year as primary accused for alleged anomalies in Phases IV and V of the construction of the Makati City Hall Building II also referred as the Makati Parking Building.

In the new set of cases filed by the Ombudsman on Thursdsay last week (July 14), the older Binay, Junjun, and several other former officials of the Makati City government are being accused of anomalies in the design stage as well as in Phase I, II and III of the construction stage of the project.

In its order, the Third Division said the issuance of the HDO against the respondents is to render them “at all times amenable to the writs and processes of the Court.”

The HDO was signed by Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice and Third Division chairperson Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Third Division members Associate Justices Samuel Martires and Sarah Jane Fernandez.

Aside from the Binays also listed in the HDOs were:

•Former city administrator Marjorie De Veyra
•Former city legal officer Pio Kenneth Dasal
•Former budget officer Lorenza Amores
•Former city central planning management heads Virginia Hernandez and Line dela Peña
•Former BAC head Giovanni Condes
•Former BAC vice chariman Ulysses Orienza,
•Former BAC Secretariat head Manolito Uyaco
•Former BAC Technical Working Group chairman Rodel Nayve
•Former city engineers Mario Badillo, Arnel Cadangan and Emerito Magat
•Former city accountants Leonila Querijero and Cecilio Lim III
•Former acting city accountant Raydes Pestaño
•Former city treasurer Nelia Barlis
•Former General Services Department officer Norman Flores, Orlando Mateo from Mana Architecture and Interior Design, Co. (MANA)
•Efren Canlas of Hilmarc’s Construction Company (Hilmarc’s)

Based on the information of the cases, the two Binays, in conspiracy with the other city officials, awarded a contract to Mana Architecture and Interior Design, Co. (MANA) for the design of Makati City Hall Building II project, allegedly without public bidding.

The Ombudsman said payments totaling P11,011,294.77 was given to MANA “despite its failure to deliver the approved plans and specifications under the contract.”

The Ombudsman said the Binays also awarded three contracts totaling P1.486 billion to Hilmarc’s Construction Corporation for Phases One, Two and Three of the project through a rigged or “simulated public bidding.”

The Ombudsman said the contracts were awarded to Hilmarc’s despite the absence of approved budget appropriation, project plan, and specifications.

The Ombudsman said the invitation to bid supposedly published in the tabloid, Balita, was falsified.

The Ombudsman said the Binays approved the release of payments to Hilmarc’s despite being fully aware that its accomplishment reports were “baseless” as there were no supporting documents submitted to back them.

The former vice president posted a total of P376,000 bail on Friday last week in exchange for his provision liberty from the cases.

The younger Binay as well as the other respondents posted bail on the same day. —with Maki Pulido/KG/ALG, GMA News


PHILSTAR

Supreme Court frees Gloria Macapagal Arroyo By Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) | Updated July 19, 2016 - 1:03pm 53 1146 googleplus0 1


Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now Pampanga representative, has been under hospital arrest since 2012. File photo

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 3 4:01 p.m.) — The Supreme Court has dismissed a plunder case against Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over her alleged misuse of the intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

SC spokesperson Theodore Te announced at a televised press conference that the high court dismissed the case against Arroyo for lack of evidence.

The court also ordered the immediate release of Arroyo, who is currently under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center.

Four SC justices voted against the dismissal of Arroyo's case - Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Justice Antonio Carpio, Justice Marvic Leonen and Justice Alfredo Caguioa.

"The Chief Justice and Justice Leonen submitted separate dissenting opinions. Justice (Arturo) Brion submitted a separate concurring opinion. Justice (Estela) Perlas-Bernabe submitted a separate concurring and dissenting opinion," Te said.

Arroyo lawyer Raul Lambino also told ANC in a phone interview that papers for Arroyo's release are already being processed.

READ MORE...

She has been under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center since 2012.

"Thank God. We're very happy," her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo said. "They took away six years of her life. An innocent woman."

The plunder case stems from charges filed by the Office of the Ombudsman for Arroyo's alleged diversion of P366 million in the PCSO's intelligence funds for personal gain between 2008 and 2010.

The Senate blue ribbon committee also investigated the alleged fund diversion in 2011. — with Jonathan de Santos; Initial reports by Edu Punay and Paolo Romero; Graphic designed by Jonathan Asuncion

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

SC junks plunder case vs CGMA, orders immediate release
by Rey G. Panaligan July 19, 2016 Share3 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share25


With President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in Veterans Memorial Medical Center after receiving the information that the Plunder case that was filed by the Aquino government against her was dismissed for insufficiency of evidence by the Supreme Court, 19 July 2016.Photo from the Facebook account of Raul Lambino

Voting 11-4, the Supreme Court (SC) ordered the release from hospital arrest of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as it dismissed, for insufficiency of evidence, the plunder case filed against her before the Sandiganbayan in connection with alleged misuse of P366 million in funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

The SC decision is immediately executory. It is now the turn of the Sandiganbayan to implement the ruling and facilitate the release of Mrs. Arroyo from the Veterans Memorial Hospital in Quezon City where she has been confined due to failing health.

Since the dismissal of the plunder case is tantamount to an acquittal, government prosecutors are banned from filing any motion for reconsideration.

Also ordered released with the dismissal of the plunder case was Benigno Aguas, former PCSO budget and accounts manager. The SC voted 10-5 in his case.

Quoting from the SC decision, a copy of which was not immediately available, Spokesman Theodore O. Te said in a press briefing:

“Wherefore the Court grants the petitions for certiorari; annuls and sets aside the resolutions issued in Criminal Case No. SB-12-CRM-0174 by the Sandiganbayan on April 6, 2015 and September 10, 2015; grants the petitioners’respective demurer to evidence; dismisses Criminal Case No. SB-12-CRM-0174 as to the petitioners Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Benigno Aguas for insufficiency of evidence; orders the immediate release from detention of said petitioners….”

Those who voted to dismiss the plunder case and order Mrs. Arroyo’s release were Justices Presbitero J. Velasco Jr., Teresita J. Leonardo de Castro, Arturo D. Brion, Diosdado M. Peralta, Lucas P. Bersamin, Mariano C. del Castillo, Jose Portugal Perez, Jose Catral Mendoza, Bienvenido L. Reyes, Estela B. Perlas Bernabe, and Francis H. Jardeleza.

Those who dissented were Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno, Senior Justice Antonio T. Carpio, and Justices Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen, and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa.

DISSENTERS

In the case of Aguas, Justice Bernabe joined Sereno, Carpio, Leonen, and Caguioa as dissenter.

Te said Sereno and Leonen submitted separate dissenting opinions, Brion submitted separate concurring opinion, while Bernabe submitted separate concurring and dissenting opinion.

3 ISSUES ELEVATED

Mrs. Arroyo had elevated to the SC three issues involving her plunder case. These are the denial to post bail, determination of probable cause, and demurer to evidence.

She had pleaded the SC to resolve immediately her petition that would dismiss her plunder case through a demurer to evidence.

She pointed out the need to now resolve her case after the Office of the Ombudsman recently started investigation on a new complaint for plunder and malversation of public funds also in connection with the PCSO funds from 2004 to 2007.

“That the institution of the new complaint which involves disbursements of PCSO funds for earlier years hardly suggests that its filing is to vindicate a public wrong,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

“Indeed, in an earlier pleading, the petitioner has stated that, in the light of the arguments now on records of the case, (petitioner Arroyo) sees the ‘break of dawn’ in the restoration of full restoration of her freedom. The Office of the Ombudsman seeks to prolong her nightmare,” the motion stated.

She reminded the SC that she has been detained since October 2012.


PHILSTAR

SC acquittal proves ‘political persecution’ by Aquino - Arroyo camp By Rosette Adel (philstar.com) | Updated July 19, 2016 - 5:16pm 10 79 googleplus0 0


Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now Pampanga representative, has been under hospital arrest since 2012. File photo

MANILA, Philippines – The legal spokesman of former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, Ferdinand Topacio, on Tuesday said they are grateful for the Supreme Court’s decision to acquit former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of plunder charges.

Topacio said the acquittal only proves that the case of Macapagal-Arroyo is politically motivated.

“The Supreme Court has once again proven itself to be the final bastion of justice and the rule of law,” Topacio said in a statement.

“Its ruling today has validated what we have been saying for six years now: that the charges against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are nothing more than disingenuous attempts at political persecution by a corrupt and inept Aquino administration intent on covering up its gross lack of accomplishments by harassing its political opponents,” he added.

The former first gentleman echoed Topacio’s statement saying the previous administration took away six years of his wife's life by detaining her.

"Thank God. We're very happy. They took away six years of her life. An innocent woman," Arroyo said.

READ MORE...

Topacio said Arroyo “would like to thank their family and friends who have shown unwavering loyalty to Macapagal-Arroyo and the Arroyo and Macapagal families in their hour of deepest darkness, through the trials brought about by unrelenting prosecution and defamation perpetrated by the previous regime”.

“Their continuous moral support and prayers have seen Atty. and Mrs. Arroyo, their children and grandchildren, through what have been the most trying of times for them,” Topacio said.

In a televised phone interview with ANC, Topacio said they are expecting the former president to “be home tonight, in time for dinner.”

GMA happy with SC’s decision

Meanwhile, the Macapagal-Arroyo's legal counsel Estelito Mendoza, confirmed that the former president would go straight to her home at La Vista after her release. He also hailed the SC ruling.

He added that the former president is “very happy and feels vindicated.”

Mendoza also dismissed rumors that President Rodrigo Duterte had a hand in the decision.

“Walang kinalaman si President Duterte sa kasong ito o sa proseso ng Supreme Court.”

Arroyo through Topacio expressed optimism that the Duterte administration would provide positive changes and voiced their support for the president's advocacies.

“The dawn of a new administration has brought about new hope for great positive change, which includes freedom from false and malicious accusations and unceasing lies and disinformation. We all join the new government in its fight against criminality, corruption and its economic and political reforms that will surely usher in a new golden age for our country and people,” Topacio said.

On Tuesday afternoon, the SC en banc dismissed the plunder case against Macapagal-Arroyo over her alleged misuse of the intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office due to lack of evidence.

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RELATED FROM THE INQUIRER

Mike Arroyo on SC ruling: Thank God, Gloria’s innocent By: Gil Cabacungan @gilcabacungan
Philippine Daily Inquirer 08:31 PM July 19th, 2016


In this October 29, 2012 file photo, former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is seen with her husband, lawyer Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo. TETCH TORRES/INQUIRER.net

MANILA — Former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo was elated by the Supreme Court decision acquitting his wife, former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, of plunder and ordering her immediate release.

“Thank God. They took away six years of her life, (she’s) an innocent woman,” said Mike Arroyo in a brief statement.

The former first gentleman thanked his family and friends and local and foreign players for keeping the faith “through the trials brought about by unrelenting prosecution and defamation perpetrated by the previous regime.”

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said they were gravely disappointed with the high court’s decision and blamed the Aquino administration’s ineptitude for failing to pin the former president.

“More could have been done to strengthen the case and make the former president accountable. Unfortunately, it seems that the previous Aquino administration was merely contented in keeping her politically paralyzed in the past six years rather than obtaining a conviction,” said Zarate.

While he considered this a setback, Zarate said that the campaign for accountability and against impunity should be carried out, not only against the Pampanga representative, but also former President Benigno Aquino III and his group. SFM

 


PHILSTAR

Senators throw mixed reactions over SC ruling to free Arroyo By Patricia Lourdes Viray (philstar.com) | Updated July 19, 2016 - 4:37pm 15 215 googleplus0 0


FILE - In this Feb. 23, 2012 file photo, former Philippine President and now Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, center, arrives at a Pasay City Court for her arraignment on electoral fraud charges in Manila. The Philippine Supreme Court has dismissed the plunder charge against former PresidentArroyo, ordering her immediate release from nearly five years of hospital detention. Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said Tuesday, July 19, 2016, the 15 justices voted 11-4 granting Arroyo’s petition seeking the dismissal of the remaining plunder case against her before an anti-graft court for lack of evidence. The case is about the alleged misuse of 366 million pesos ($7.8 million) of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office fund. AP/Bullit Marquez, File

MANILA, Philippines — A few senators have expressed support while others were dismayed over the ruling of the Supreme Court to dismiss the plunder case against former president and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Voting 11-4, the high court decided to dismiss the case against Arroyo over her alleged misuse of the intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson said Arroyo has suffered enough for spending six years in detention and that he supports the SC ruling to free and accord her comfort.

"As I have repeatedly said, while I will never forget who they are, I have forgiven all my tormentors for the past nine years under her administration, living or dead," Lacson said in a statement.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan II said that the SC decision to acquit the former president is a "triumph of the rule of law and of due process" while Sen. Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III said that the SC ruling should be respected as a co-equal branch of government.

READ MORE...

"It is a positive step towards national unity, reconciliation and less of the divisive partisan politics that we have inflicted on ourselves," Honasan said.

Meanwhile, Sen. Leila de Lima questioned the timing of the SC ruling on Arroyo's case.

"Why did they have to wait for a change in administration to change the ruling?" De Lima said in an ambush interview.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV noted that the release of Arroyo was one of the promises of President Rodrigo Duterte during his campaign.

Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero, however, said that he does not think that Duterte has anything to do with the decision of the high court as he believes in the independence of the judiciary.

On the other hand, Sen. Risa Hontiveros lamented the SC decision noting that "(it's) a sad day for justice."

The high court ordered the immediate release of Arroyo, who has been under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City since 2012.

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RELATED FROM THE INQUIRER

SC frees Gloria: Anti-GMA groups slam acquittal Written by Benjamin B. Pulta Wednesday, 20 July 2016 00:00

Ailing former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday obtained a vindication from the Supreme Court four years into her incarceration in a government hospital on plunder charges by the Aquino administration for the alleged misuse of P366 million Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) fund from 2008 to 2010.

Conferring in en banc session, the SC voting 11 to 4 voted to dismiss the remaining plunder case against detained Arroyo before the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court and ordered her immediate release from hospital detention.

The High Court, in a majority decision by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin with 10 others concurring, decided to grant Arroyo’s petition for demurrer to evidence citing the utter failure of prosecution to present evidence to establish the guilt of the accused.

The four dissenters were the predictables. They are Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Marvic Leonen and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa.

The ruling effectively acquitted the former leader.


SUPREME COURT OF THE PHILIPPINES JUSTICES

SC spokesman Theodore Te said the High Court dismissed the criminal case for “insufficiency of evidence” and ordered Arroyo’s “immediate release from detention” from the Veteran’s Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.

No copy was released as of press time pending completion of signatures of justices as Te explained that the ruling would first be served to the Sandiganbayan for implementation. The court also granted relief to co-accused, former PCSO assistant general manager Benigno Aguas. It also granted his petition for demurrer to evidence and ordered his release from the PNP custodial center.

Arroyo has been detained for almost four years already or since Oct. 2012.

She was earlier detained for another non-bailable offense, electoral sabotage, but was granted bail by the Pasay City Regional Trial Court.

Shortly after her release, then President Noynoy Aquino who wanted her detained some more, had the PCSO file a complaint against her for plunder. All other co-accused save for Arroyo, were granted bail earlier,

The Sandiganbayan junked her bail petitions, one after the other.

The court also denied her petition for a demurrer, which is done by the accused after the prosecution rests.

In her petition, Arroyo sought the reversal of two Sandiganbayan resolutions dated April 6, 2015 and September 10, 2015 that denied her demurrer to evidence plea.

“Not a single exhibit of the 637 exhibits offered by the prosecution nor a single testimony of the 21 witnesses of the prosecution was offered by the prosecution to prove that [Arroyo] amassed, accumulated, or acquired even a single peso of the alleged ill-gotten wealth amounting to P365,997,915.00 or any part of that amount alleged in the Information,” Arroyo’s petition stated.

The SC ruling came after the High Court granted her pleas for several furloughs.

Last December, the SC granted the ailing former leader a holiday furlough and allowed her to spend Christmas and New Year with her family in their house in La Vista.

In March, the High Tribunal also allowed her to celebrate her 69th birthday with her family in the same residence last April 5.

For the third time, the SC granted relief to Arroyo earlier this month and allowed her to vote in her home province in Pampanga during elections last May 9 and also granted her plea to undergo dental procedures for four days at the clinic of her dentist in Makati City.

The High Tribunal earlier stopped the trial of Arroyo in the remaining plunder case against her through the issuance of a status quo ante order (SQA) on the proceedings before the first division of the anti-graft court pending its resolution of her bail petition. The order was extended three times already and will remain in effect until June 20.

GMA hails SC decision, grateful to people

Arroyo asked the people to “keep the faith in the justice system.”

She could not have uttered something more appropriate than as she embodied a victim of political persecution who never lost hope in the judiciary despite having spent the last five years under hospital detention.

Mrs. Arroyo also enjoined the people never to lose hope in the judiciary as she expressed her gratitude to all who have stood by her and supported her for her acquittal from the plunder charges which kept her detained for more than five years.

“First and foremost, to God Almighty be the glory and praise. Through his kindness and mercy, justice and righteousness have again prevailed over injustice and wrongdoing,” said Mrs. Arroyo.

“I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the Honorable Members of the Supreme Court (SC) for finally stopping the persecution I had unjustly gone through the last five years. My most profound appreciation to His Excellency Rodrigo Duterte for allowing due process take its course,” Mrs. Arroyo stressed.

“With the High Tribunal rendering a final decision on this unfortunate episode, I sincerely hope that everyone will respect and recognize the truth that had been established.

Returning Camarines Sur Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella, also a former House Speaker, said the SC decision proves the country’s justice system is still strong.

“Real justice for GMA achieved. It establishes that the Philippine justice system is still strong,” said Fuentebella.

Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco said: “We have to respect and follow the SC ruling at all times, “ said Tiangco.

Tiangco, while a member of the opposition during the tem of Mrs. Arroyo, defended the former president when he pas personally attacked in the plenary by Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, as he move to strike off the records all derogatory remarks Bello said against Mrs. Arroyo.

Leila livid


De Lima says SC ruling on Arroyo case 'disappointing'.

Accepting the high court ruling did not sit well with Sen. Leila de Lima, a human rights advocate and former secretary of the Department of Justice (DoJ) as she expressed disapproval in the decision even as she has yet to read the decision itself.

“I understand that it’s not a unanimous decision. There are dissenting opinions. I’d be so interested to read this, especially the dissenting opinion. But at the top of my mind is: what’s happening? These are trying times and first, why did they (SC) have to wait for the change in the administration to issue that ruling?” she pointed out.

De Lima said she had anticipated this event from happening when the SC decided to grant bail to now retired Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, when the latter was accused of the same charges over the alleged misuse of pork barrel funds and was under detention at the hospital of the Philippine National Police (PNP), citing health reasons and old age.

“I said to myself then that the case if the former president (Arroyo) could come in next because we are seeing here situations when the SC seems to assume the role now of a trier of facts,” she said.

“This is because the Sandiganbayan several times had already rejected her pleas for bail and then demurrer to evidence et cetera because Sandiganbayan is the trier of facts here. This is the same case with former Senator Enrile. The SC should have left the decision with the Sandiganbayan on whether or not to grant the bail for the former senator.

Based on news reports, De Lima said the SC is now supplanting again the assessment of the anti-graft court as a trier of facts by saying that the evidence of guilt is not strong.

Panelo slams Leila


PANELO

President Duterte’s chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo threatened Senator de Lima with possible raps that could eventually lead to her disbarment.

In a brief chit-chat with Malacañang reporters, Panelo hinted that the camp of Arroyo might file charges against de Lima who, during her stint as Department of Justice (DoJ) secretary, was one of those who barred Arroyo from seeking treatment outside the country in 2012 as she was then charged with graft over the NBN-ZTE deal that was eventually junked.

“It’s De Lima’s turn to be charged. Maybe disbarment over what she did previously to Mrs. Arroyo,” Panelo told reporters.

De Lima has been the punching bag of sorts by lawyers surrounding President Duterte such as Panelo and Solicitor General Jose Calida for her apparent criticisms against the justice methodologies of the tough-talking President.

Panelo, a close friend of the former President who is now on her third term as Pampanga congresswoman, said the reason Mrs. Arroyo received justice is that “Noynoy Aquino is not president anymore”.

“Its about time. The innocence of one is the innocence of all,” he said.

On the other hand, Arroyo’s former Press Secretary Jesus Dureza - who is now Duterte’s official adviser on the peace process - told reporters in Malacañang yesterday that he’s ‘’personally elated” with Supreme Court’s ruling to acquit his former boss of plunder raps.

“We talked over phone. I congratulated her and from background I can hear so many people there. There were many who visited her. I’ve visted her with my wife many times over,” Dureza shared.

Most of Arroyo’s former cabinet members comprise the cabinet of President Duterte.

Meanwhile, militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) suggested that Arroyo’s apparent legal victory is due to her successor Noynoy Aquino’s weak charges against her.

This is what Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said in a text message to the Daily Tribune despite the fact that Aquino was known to blame Arroyo for his usually questioned policies.

“It is also important to determine the culpability of the past Aquino regime in terms of building a strong case against Arroyo. Did Aquino file a weak case destined to be dismissed? The release of Arroyo, and Aquino’s failure to successfully prosecute her, will forever be hallmarks of the so-called Daang Matuwid,” Reyes claimed.

Mixed reactions from legislators

“The release of GMA (Arroyo) is one of the campaign promises of President (Rodrigo) Duterte. At least he didn’t need to do much to fulfill this one,” said Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV in a text message to reporters.


LACSON

Arroyo’s acquittal from the charges appeared amenable to one of her known critics in the past, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, saying that the former leader has suffered enough, having spent six years in detention under an extremely difficult physical condition.

“Even for purely humanitarian consideration, I support the SC’s running to free her and accord her some comfort for the remaining years of her life which are not really that many, considering her age,” Lacson said.

“As I have repeatedly said, while I will never forget who they are, I have forgiven all my tormentors for the past nine years under her administration, living or dead,” he added.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan, who experienced getting arrested and eventually detained under the Arroyo administration over coup d’ etat charges filed in connection with the failed July 27, 2003 Oakwood mutiny, welcomed the high court ruling.


HONASAN

“The SC decision to acquit Arroyo is a triumph of the rule of law and due process. It is also positive step towards national unity,” Honasan said.

Incoming Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, likewise, seemed to have anticipated such development, noting how most of the co-accused of the former president had already been acquitted.

“If the funds in question under the control of the PCSO (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office) and all of those at the PCSO level have been acquitted, how could you convict those above the PCSO?” he pointed out.



“Though I do not know the details (of the SC decision), let us just respect the decision of a co-equal branch of government,” Pimentel said.

Solons welcome SC decision on GMA plunder case

Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte Jr. and other lawmakers yesterday welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court junking the plunder case filed against the former President.


BELMONTE

“This is a welcome development to put closure on the case,” said Belmonte.

For former Speaker Prospero Nograles the ruling was long overdue.

“The overdue delayed justice finally comes for former President GMA,” Nograles said yesterday.


NOGRALES

“I congratulate the Supreme Court for their just ruling on the case! It’s about time too!” Nograles added.

Nograles said that the Pampanga lawmaker “can now continue serving our nation without any restriction.”

“The High Court’s decision is premised on the lack of evidence against former President Arroyo. And while others may debate this finding, we must acknowledge that in thus speaking, the Supreme Court has written the final chapter to this story. And no matter if it may grind slowly, the wheels of justice in our country still turn. Part of our journey to political maturity is the ability to accept and support lawful actions of our lawful institutions,” said Tambunting.

Quezon City Rep. Alfred Vargas said he is looking forward to seeing and working with Arroyo.


VARGAS

“She can now actively pursue her work in Congress and her other advocacies, receive proper medical care, and be surrounded by her family and friends. Indeed, today is a blessed day for the Arroyos,” Vargas said.
With Angie M Rosales, Gerry Baldo, Ted Tuvera


INQUIRER

SC: Evidence vs Arroyo insufficient; see how the justices voted
[HIGH TRIBUNAL ORDERS EX-PRESIDENT'S 'IMMEDIATE' RELEASE]

By: Estrella Torres
@inquirerdotnet
Philippine Daily Inquirer
04:38 PM July 19th, 2016


Former president and now Pampanga congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA — The Supreme Court en banc, voting 11-4, ordered the immediate release from detention of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo after it dismissed the P366-million plunder charge against her in connection with the alleged misuse of the intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

The high court dismissed the criminal case against Arroyo and former PCSO budget officer Benigno Aguas “for insufficiency of evidence and orders the immediate release from detention of said petitioners.” It made no pronouncement on the costs of the suit.

Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te, in a press briefing Tuesday said the case has been promulgated and the decision “will have to be served first” to concerned parties to facilitate their release.

The former Philippine President has been on hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center since October 2012 following the decision of the Sandiganbayan that ordered her arrest and detention.

READ MORE...

The 11 SC justices who voted for Arroyo’s release were:

Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr

Justice Teresita de Castro

Justice Arturo Brion

Justice Diosdado Peralta

Justice Lucas Bersamin

Justice Mariano del Castillo

Justice Jose Perez

Justice Jose Mendoza

Justice Bienvenido Reyes

Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe

Justice Francis Jardeleza

The high court justices who dissented or voted against Arroyo’s release were Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justices Marvic Leonen and Benjamin Caguioa. SFM/rga

-----------------------------------

RELATED FROM THE MANILA TIMES

Supreme Court acquits Arroyo July 19, 2016 2:30 pm by By JOMAR CANLAS Senior Reporter LLANESCA PANTI and CATHERINE S. VALENTE, Reporters


Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo FILE PHOTO

THE Supreme Court acquitted former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of plunder in an 11-4 vote on Tuesday that is expected to lead to her immediate release after a four-year detention, her lawyer said.

Lawyer Raul Lambino said in a televised interview the ruling by the high court is immediately executory.

The high court granted Arroyo’s demurrer to evidence in connection with the plunder case involving her alleged misuse of intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO).

In a demurrer to evidence, the accused pleads for the dismissal of charges and argues that the prosecution had presented insufficient evidence.

Those who voted for Arroyo’s acquittal were Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, who wrote the ponente or decision, Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Mariano del Castillo, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, Bienvenido Reyes, Francis Jardeleza and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.

Reyes, Jardeleza and Perlas-Bernabe are all appointees of former President Benigno Aquino 3rd, whose government has kept Arroyo at the Veteran Memorial Medical Center since 2012.

Three other appointees of Aquino voted against Arroyo’s acquittal: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Aranal-Sereno, Associate Justices Marvic Leonen and Benjamin Caguioa. Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, an Arroyo appointee, also dissented.

The camp of Arroyo, who retained her post as Pampanga Representative while in hospital arrest, hailed the Supreme Court ruling, saying it “validated what we have been saying for six years now: that the charges against [Arroyo] are nothing more than disingenuous attempts at political persecution by a corrupt and inept Aquino administration.”

“The dawn of a new administration has brought about new hope for great positive change, which includes freedom from false and malicious accusations and unceasing lies and disinformation,” said lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, spokesman for former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

“We all join the new government in its fight against criminality, corruption and its economic and political reforms that will surely usher in a new golden age for our country and people,” he added.

‘Trier of facts’

The Malacañang Palace, now occupied by the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, urged the public to accept the decision. “The Supreme Court has spoken. Let us respect and abide by the High Court’s decision,” it said in a brief statement.

Senator Leila de Lima, who ordered Arroyo’s arrest as Justice secretary under the Aquino administration, cast doubt on Tuesday’s court decision, saying: “Why do they have to wait for the change of administration to issue that ruling?”

“It is disappointing. It is disheartening. What is happening?” she commented in an interview with reporters.

De Lima said the Supreme Court had assumed the role of “trier of facts,” instead of leaving it up to the Sandiganbayan, which originally junked Arroyo’s demurrer.

The militant Kabataan party-list group sees the decision as a “great blow” to the justice system.

“Mrs. Arroyo’s eventual release casts a dark shadow over the Philippine justice system – a system that lets political prisoners to remain incarcerated for trumped-up charges for decades, while letting Philippine presidents go scot-free despite being caught red-handed in raiding the public coffers,” said Kabataan Rep. Sarah Elago.
FFS/NT


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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