The dismissal of the case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should never be interpreted as another case where the often highly partisan Supreme Court decided the case to please the one in charge as it blamed the prosecution for its incompetence, tardiness or both in handling the case. The case has been in court for more than four years, and while it remained pending, the accused former President languished in jail awaiting the outcome of her fate.
It is now irrelevant for Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to say that the government has a good case because the people will no longer judge Mrs. Arroyo on the merits of the case lodged against her but on how the prosecutors handled the case.
One must bear in mind that for every minute a case is pending in court, it is the taxpayers’ money that is dissipated. All those involved in the dispensation of justice gets his pay, but hardly could one count of any productive output. Thus, there is a saying in this country, he who seeks justice is likely to suffer an injustice.
As the accused suffers, it becomes clear that the case was politically motivated. This is why the case lost its venom. It is no longer for Ombudsman Morales to weigh why the P366-million PCSO funds allegedly plundered by Mrs. Arroyo was dismissed. She should ask herself why the case has been pending for so long that even if the court eventually finds Mrs. Arroyo not guilty, her long incarceration is almost equivalent to punishing her for a crime she did not commit.
Conventional legal analysts would say that one’s conviction is deserved because he violated the law.
But when the accused is acquitted, they would equally say he was vindicated by the court of law. However, what many failed to analyze is that justice too has its own dialectical perception of cases brought to it for decision. For instance, when a man is charged of a specific crime and languishes in jail for reasons that he could not avail of the temporary relief of bail either for want of money or because of the gravity of crime charged against him, perception of justice gradually shifts from the prosecutors to the defense. Pivotal to the shift is that the issue no longer revolves on the evidence, but on the undue delay in the proceedings.
This is why the prosecution is required to present the case on time. This is highlighted by that phrase that “justice delayed is justice denied.” This explains why all civilized courts impose a time frame not only against the party-litigants, but also upon themselves. Failure to observe it entitles any of the parties to invoke the rule to his advantage. If it was the prosecutor who intentionally delayed in prosecuting the case, the accused can demand its dismissal like invoking the failure to prosecute for which he has the right to speedy, impartial and public trial. But if the delay is on the account of the accused, he cannot invoke said principle on account of estoppel by latches. Most importantly, the courts, including the Supreme Court, are required under Section 15, Article VIII of the Constitution to resolve cases within 24 months from the date of submission, 12 months for lower collegiate court, and three months for all lower courts.
We are compelled to emphasize this because there is a clock that ticks, requiring all courts to finish cases at a given period. The issue that used to be purely legal gradually metamorphoses to one of public indignation. Public opinion is more powerful because it works in the form of public pressure. It no longer focuses on whether the Ombudsman was able to present strong evidence consisting of more than 360 documentary exhibits, on the testimony of the witnesses which she claims are all reflected in the 43 transcript of stenographic notes, and by the records of the case from “A” to “Z” consisting of more than 40 folders and/or records of the case, but on why it took the court so long to come out with a decision, only for the prosecution to express their contemptuous disagreement.
The acquittal of the former President came barely a month after President Duterte was sworn to office. This has spurred speculation that possibly the Aquino government purposely sought to delay the promulgation. They cleverly thought that either way the decision goes, after Noynoy steps out of office, public opinion would be magnanimous to him. Had the high court convicted Mrs. Arroyo, Noynoy can boast he initiated the filing of the case, and if people disagree, he can pass on the blame to the Duterte government. Now that the decision came out acquitting Mrs. Arroyo, Noynoy is saying many things against the very court he once packed with political sycophants insinuating that the majority of the magistrates bowed down to pressures from the new government with his Chief Justice even hinting of a conspiracy.
To quote Noynoy’s sour grapes: “What is the recourse now of the Filipino people, when it is clear that a substantial amount of public funds did not go to the intended services, which would have alleviated the suffering of many of our countrymen?” “Nowhere”, Aquino said, “in the PCSO charter does it state that it’s charity funds could be diverted to actions related to “Bomb threat, kidnapping, destabilization and terrorism” or for “Bilateral and security relations.” He added that “the PCSO released P365 million for extra expenses in three years of which 70 percent or P244.5 million to the Office of the President.” He said this diversion of funds meant fewer funds for its beneficiaries as seen from the PCSO mounting arrears. “One cannot help but think: If P365 million was used for its intended purpose, how many of our countrymen could have been afforded the basic and necessary service that they deserve?”
Noynoy has asked his lawyers to review what he now sees as a questionable decision. He forgot that what he now faces is not about the diversion but outright releases of said funds without going through the process of appropriation as required by law. To give semblance of legality to their systematic looting of taxpayers’ money, they invented their own term—the Disbursement Acceleration Program. Scheming as they are, Noynoy and his Department of the Budget and Management Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad now came to conclude that since they are free to release funds without an appropriation, they were equally free not to identify the projects they want to be funded, mostly sponsored by their faithful lackeys, thus leaving a gaping hole for corruption like pocketing portions of it or diverting the whole funds. Noynoy and his cabal did not just commit technical malversation but outright swindling, civilly termed in law as “misappropriation.”