By Rey E. Requejo
Manila Standard Today
JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday said former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was not yet off the hook over the allegations she cheated in the May 2004 presidential elections even if the Ombudsman had dropped the bribery and graft charges against.
De Lima said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales dropped the charges on the basis of insufficiency of evidence.
“It does not preclude the filing of another case… if and when there is sufficiency of evidence,” De Lima said.
She said she had been waiting for the report of the Senate committee that investigated the alleged poll fraud during the 2004 polls, adding that a joint probe conducted by her department and the Commission on Elections covered only the 2007 mid-term elections.
In a resolution approved on May 25, the ombudsman said the evidence against Arroyo and six others was insufficient because “the complaint contains bare allegations and pieces of evidence that are unsubscribed, unauthenticated and recanted affidavits or statements.”
Also cleared were former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, former Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines director general and Philippine Ports Authority general manager Alfonso Cusi, PPA manager Efren Bollozos, former Justice secretary Agnes Devanadera, former Shariah Circuit Court judge Nagamura Moner, and the former president’s husband Jose Miguel Arroyo.
But the police on Thursday said they were ready to arrest Mr. Arroyo and former police chief Jesus Verzosa if the Sandiganbayan ordered it in connection with the graft case filed over the 2009 sale of used helicopters that were passed off as new.
Arroyo and Verzosa aside, 20 other police officials were implicated in the controversial deal, and of whom seven have retired.
Mr. Arroyo has denied any wrongdoing in the case, saying he had nothing to do with the sale of the helicopters.
Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said the active police officers and personnel involved in the anomalous transaction would be either dismissed or suspended in line with the ombudsman’s June 1 decision.
The ombudsman has dismissed from the service 14 active and retired police officers and personnel and suspended six others for their involvement in the transaction.
At the same time, it absolved of graft charges former Interior secretary Ronaldo Puno, former Interior assistant secretary Oscar Valenzuela, National Police Commission director Conrado Sumanga Jr., Napolcom commissioners Miguel Coronel and Celia Sanidad-Leones, and former National Police director general and Napolcom commissioner Avelino Razon Jr. for lack of probable cause. With Florante S. Solmerin and Jonathan Fernandez