The Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday, July 19, to acquit former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the plunder charge filed against her. She was alleged to have misused the P366-million intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) while she was in office as president from 2008 to 2010. The Court also ruled for Arroyo’s immediate release from her hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC), where she has been detained since 2012.
The Supreme Court voted in favor of Arroyo’s acquittal but it was not a unanimous decision since the Justices were divided 11-4 in their ruling.
The four Justices who voted against dismissing Arroyo’s case included Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justices Benjamin Caguioa and Marvic Leonen. Three of these Justices were appointed by former President Benigno Aquino III, while Carpio was appointed by Arroyo.
There were 11 Justices who voted for the dismissal of Arroyo’s plunder charge.
Eight of these 11 Justices were Arroyo’s appointees, including:
- 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
Interestingly enough, these are the same eight Justices who granted Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s petition to post bail on August 2015. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Enrile due to his health condition and the fact that the senator’s camp has proven that he was not a flight risk.
De Lima predicted Arroyo’s release
Senator Leila de Lima, who served as Justice Secretary during Aquino’s administration, said that she’s disappointed with the Supreme Court’s ruling, questioning its timing. While she has not read the dissenting opinions, she said that her first reaction was, “What’s happening?”
“These are trying times and first, why did they have to wait for the change in administration to issue that ruling?,” de Lima told the media at the Senate.
De Lima also said that she predicted Arroyo’s release after the Supreme Court allowed Enrile to post bail.
“Sabi ko, baka ang isunod nila the case of the former President because we are seeing here situations when the SC seem to assume the role now of trier of facts. Kasi yung Sandiganbayan, several times na yan na ni-reject and demurrer to evidence, etc. because the Sandiganbayan is the trier of facts here,” the senator said.
Arroyo thanked Duterte, Justices
In her statement regarding her acquittal, Arroyo thanked the Justices and didn’t forget to show her “heartfelt appreciation” to President Rodrigo Duterte for letting her plunder case “take its course totally unhampered.”
Arroyo also hoped for everyone to “respect and recognize the truth that has been established,” and for the “disregard of truth” that caused her to suffer to be addressed accordingly.
During the campaign, Duterte talked about releasing Arroyo if the evidence is weak and even granted her pardon, which she did not accept. This prompted Senator Antonio Trillanes to release a statement saying that Duterte has fulfilled one of his campaign promises.
On Wednesday, July 20, the Supreme Court Spokesperson Theodore Te said that all that is needed for Arroyo to be released from the VMMC are the signatures of 15 justices on the decision.