FORMER President Fidel V. Ramos on Wednesday supported the release of former President and current Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, describing the accusations of plunder against her as “shallow.”
Her release from detention would also enable Arroyo to join the National Security Council (NSC) if it is convened by President Rodrigo Duterte to discuss the country’s territorial dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea, Ramos added.
“Former presidents are ex-officio members of the NSC. Since GMA has been released, we are now four,” said Ramos.
Ramos said Aquino convened the NSC only once, several years ago.
Despite the Supreme Court ruling, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on Wednesday insisted that the prosecution provided enough evidence to convict Arroyo of plunder.
“We believe that we were able to prove the guilt of GMA [Arroyo]
beyond reasonable doubt,” she said. “If the Supreme Court indeed believes that the evidence of the prosecution is insufficient, we believe otherwise.”
The Supreme Court, voting 11-4, favored Arroyo’s petition to junk the plunder case against her, which stems from the release of intelligence funds from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office from 2008 to 2010 amounting to more than P366 million.
Morales said she has not received a copy of the ruling, but said she would study it and consider filing a motion for reconsideration.
She also confirmed that her office was investigating yet another plunder case against Arroyo over the alleged misuse of PCSO funds covering a different period.
The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines called on the public and government officials to respect the Supreme Court decision acquitting Arroyo of plunder, and told the faithful not to be quick in condemning others but to “find gifts” in people often discredited by society.
“We must respect the Supreme Court’s decision. You know, a decision like that doesn’t mean that the person isn’t guilty of the charges against her; it just means that what she was accused of doing wasn’t proven to be true in court,” Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani said over Church-owned Radio Veritas.
Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, on the other hand, said, “We must be careful, the person we want to discredit might be a gift of God.
“Jesus sees a gift even in Judas,” he said. “There’s hope even in someone who had betrayed Jesus,” the Cardinal said.
Mrs. Arroyo remains detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City despite the Supreme Court order for her immediate release.
Court spokesman Theodore Te said the Court has not yet issued the daily certified promulgated decision because the justices have not yet signed it.
“The main decision still has to be finalized by the winning ponente [writer] before it is circulated among the justices for signatures where they write if they concur, dissent or took no part. Once the signatures are completed, the decision will then be submitted to the Chief Justice for final signature and certification,” Te said Wednesday.
This, he added, meant that the release of the ruling “depends on how quickly all 15 justices sign the decision.”
He said that the release should include separate opinions, both concurring and dissenting, of the justices.
In Arroyo’s case, there are five opinions being finalized.
Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin wrote the main decision. Associate Justices Arturo Brion and Estela Perlas-Bernabe have submitted separate concurring opinions while Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justice Marvic Leonen also have separate dissenting opinions.
In previous high-profile cases, the Court usually released the decision and opinions two to three days after promulgation.
Sources said Leonen has not yet submitted his dissenting opinion as of Wednesday afternoon.
But Te said the decision was “on its way to being released.”
Only after this is done can the Sandiganbayan implement the order to release Arroyo.
Police security remained tight near the Veterans Memorial Medical Center where Arroyo is detained.
The erstwhile president’s counsel, Laurence Hector Arroyo, said the 11-4 decision that acquitted his client has not yet been signed by the justices, delaying her release.
He said Mrs. Arroyo planned to attend the first State of the Nation Address of President Rodrigo Duterte on July 25. With Rio N. Araja, Rey E. Requejo and Vito Barcelo
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