DAVAO CITY—Having served as a prosecutor in Davao City for almost 10 years, President-in-waiting Rodrigo Duterte said the government lawyers prosecuting former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for plunder failed to present sufficient evidence to prove her guilt.
“All of those charged [with Arroyo] in connection with the [Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office case] on the intelligence funds are already free. It’s only Arroyo who remains under arrest,” said Duterte who served in the Davao City Prosecutor’s Office from 1977 to 1986.
Duterte said he did not believe that Arroyo was aware of any misuse of the PCSO intelligence funds, citing his own experience as a local chief executive.
“You pay people, even those who are not your friends, especially those from the rural areas,” he said. “How can you account for those funds when they don’t even want to sign their names on any document?”
But while the case is still pending before the Sandiganbayan, Duterte said Arroyo was already a victim of injustice.
“She’s been detained for so long, the trial’s been delayed. Under the Constitution, that is grounds for dismissal. She’s been there for about four years without trial. If there is a trial every day then there would be nothing to complain about,” he said.
He said he spoke with Arroyo through telephone and he offered to grant her executive clemency, but Arroyo rejected the suggestion because that would be a tacit admission of wrongdoing.
“She rejected. I offered her. I said, ‘When I become President, I will pardon you.’ I talked to her. I said, ‘Ma’am, do you want me to pardon you not because we’re friends but because I do not think there is a good case against you as a prosecutor and as a lawyer,”’ Duterte told reporters.
But Duterte quoted Arroyo as saying: “No, thank you. I don’t want it because to be eligible for pardon, you have to admit to the crime.”
Arroyo, who recently won her third and last term as Pampanga representative, is currently detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center over plunder charges following her alleged involvement in the misuse of P366-million PCSO intelligence funds from 2008 to 2010.
Meanwhile, Arroyo’s lawyer Lorenzo Gadon said the former president’s health condition has not improved and could still be life-threatening.
“It (condition) is life-threatening in the sense that her condition is not like having a heart attack or hypertension, but she can suffer from choking that could cause her life anytime,” he told The Standard.
Arroyo is allowed only to take fish, overcooked vegetables, tenderized meat and other soft food, he said. “In one of our meals together, we ate alugbati,” he added.
Despite her illnesses, Arroyo was in high spirits when she learned that Duterte won the presidential race by a wide margin over Liberal Party standard bearer Mar Roxas, he said. “One could see a good aura about her,” he said.
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