Show Evidence, GMA Camp Dares Gov’t

The legal spokesman of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo challenged yesterday the Aquino government to show evidence against her, claiming that President Benigno S. Aquino III just wanted to divert public attention after he bailed out his friend, newly appointed election commissioner Grace Padaca.

Responding to the challenge, Malacañang said: "Be careful with what you wish for."

In a phone interview, lawyer Raul Lambino belittled the Chief Executive's declaration that the prosecutors have strong plunder case against Mrs. Arroyo which stemmed from alleged fraudulent transfer of P366 million confidential intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) from 2008 to 2010

"Ganun din sinabi niya sa electoral sabotage case, pero wala naman pala silang matibay na ebidensiya. Pano magiging malakas ang ebidensya nila, eh ang Commission on Audit ay naglalabas ng report every year that those funds are properly spent? Nasaan ang kanilang ebidensya?" he asked.

But Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said, "Atty. Lambino should be careful with what he wishes for because it just might come true."

Lambino branded as diversionary tactic the government's move to have the former President arrested as he criticized Mr. Aquino for implementing a "double-standard" policy that only stands to benefit his allies, patrons, and friends.

"Gusto lang ni Presidente na pagtakpan ang pagabswelto nya kay former Governor Grace Padaca. Pagkakampi abswelto agad, pag kalaban kulong agad. Anong klaseng hustisya ito?" Lambino asked.

But Valte dismissed Lambino's allegation that the Palace is using former President Arroyo to divert the public's attention from the Padaca case.

"His line that we are using CGMA to divert any issue is a tired and old one," Valte said.

Using his personal funds, President Aquino paid the P70,000 bail bond Padaca posted last Thursday at the Sandiganbayan over the graft and malversation cases hurled against her by the anti-graft court's Fifth Division.

Lambino said they are exploring and exhausting all possible legal options, including the filing of a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court questioning the exercise of discretion, which they "believe was abused by the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan in handling our earlier petition for judicial determination of probable cause."

"Wala pa kaming desisyon ngayon, lahat ng options na available ay pinag-aaralan," he said.

Aside from Mrs. Arroyo, also ordered arrested last Thursday were former PCSO Director Manuel Morato, PCSO budget officer Benigno B. Aguas, PCSO Board of Directors chairman Sergio O. Valencia; former PCSO general manager Rosario C. Uriarte; PCSO director Jose R. Taruc V, Raymundo T. Roquero, and Ma. Fatima A. S.Valdes; former Commission on Audit chairman Reynaldo A. Villar and former COA-Intelligence Fund Unit head Nilda B. Plaras. Valencia and Aguas already surrendered to the Philippine National Police while Morato turn himself in to the National Bureau of Investigation.

They were accused of conspiracy in defrauding the government of P365,997,915 through unlawful transfer of confidential/intelligence funds of PCSO from January 2008 to June 2010.

Plunder, a capital offense, is non-bailable and punishable by life imprisonment and entails forfeiture of defendants'assets if they are found guilty of the crime.

Mrs. Arroyo remains at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) where she was served a warrant of arrest for plunder last Thursday.

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