OMBUDSMAN BLOCKS EX-PRESIDENT ARROYO’S HOUSE ARREST MOTION AT SC

MANILA — The Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) has objected to the motion of former President and now Pampanga (2nd District) Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to be placed under house arrest.

In an 18-page opposition paper dated Jan. 11, 2016 filed before the Supreme Court (SC), the Ombudsman, through the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP), argued that Arroyo’s frail health is not a valid reason to allow her transfer from the hospital to her home.

“The medical condition of Arroyo does not justify the modification of Arroyo’s confinement from the hospital to her house. Any ‘house arrest’ arrangement in modification of the present confinement arrangement of Arroyo will violate the equal protection clause of the Constitution,” the OSP said.

The Sandiganbayan First Division was furnished with a copy of the opposition paper on January 18.

Arroyo has been under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City since 2012 for the plunder case she is facing before the Sandiganbayan for the alleged misuse of PHP366-million worth of funds from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) during her presidency.

In opposing Arroyo’s house arrest motion, the OSP argued that transferring the 68-year-old lawmaker to her home is not a guarantee that her health condition would improve than when she is in a hospital where medical services and facility are readily available.

“Arroyo is virtually asking back her full liberty through an imaginary ‘custodial arrangement’ that she viciously calls ‘house arrest’…There is an obvious chasm between the illnesses and proposed method of treatment that her physicians and psychologist created with their general abstraction of the so-called ‘holistic approach’,” the OSP said.

Arroyo’s physicians both at the VMMC and at St. Luke’s Medical Center had earlier said that her health condition has been “steadily deteriorating” following major operations in her cervical spine and due to a degenerative bone disease, osteoporosis, the narrowing of the esophagus and nerve compression, among others.

“How can such psychological cajoling reverse a degenerative bone disease, reverse osteoporosis or stop the pain associated with damage or disturbance of nerve function?…They cannot provide the answer. As we grope in the darkness of that chasm deliberately blurring our reason, Arroyo is appealing for our compassion, teasing our sense of humanity,” the OSP said.

“She wants no less than her normal life back and to freely resume to her previous personal, social and political routine as an elected public official. She wants a privileged treatment…This is a direct affront and mockery of our correction system,” it said.

“The restrictions imposed on Arroyo in confinement are inherent in detention and are as equally applicable on all detention prisoners. They are reasonably required to achieve the legitimate objective of securing the detainee’s safety and to prevent her escape,” it added.

The OSP stressed that the issues raised by Arroyo in her motion for house arrest were the same issues she raised in her petition for certiorari, questioning the earlier rulings of the Sandiganbayan First Division denying her motion to post bail and her demurrer to evidence which sought the dismissal of the case due to the supposed weak evidence of the prosecution.

“The instant motion [for house arrest] collaterally attacks resolutions of the Sandiganbayan which are the very subject of a separate petition for certiorari filed by Arroyo with the same Court. She is virtually raising the same issues and asking for the same relief, a practice akin to forum-shopping which must be proscribed,” the OSP said.

The SC has yet to rule on Arroyo’s petition for certiorari, which she filed last April 17.

In her petition, Arroyo argued that the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion by ruling that there is strong evidence against her.

Arroyo asked the SC to reverse and set aside the Sandiganbayan’s ruling and that she be allowed to post bail for her temporary liberty. PNA / northboundasia.com