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New legal team says poor health entitles Arroyo to bail

Former president and incumbent Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is too sick to be detained and to escape.

This new argument was entered by the former chief executive’s new team of lawyers who have entered their appearance as collaborating counsel to Arroyo’s current lawyer, Modesto Ticman Jr, in the plunder case filed against the detained solon.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Manila Bulletin

In this file photo, Former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, now a sitting lawmaker in the lower house of Congress, sits on a wheelchair as she makes her way towards the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court in Quezon City, Metro Manila October 29, 2012. REUTERS/Cheryl Ravelo

In an eight-page supplemental motion for reconsideration, defense lawyers Jose B. Flaminiano, Laurence Hector B. Arroyo and Aufelene Anne Laxamana reiterated the medical reasons why Arroyo is entitled to bail.

The new legal team headed by Flaminiano stressed that Arroyo is entitled to bail as a matter of right because she is seriously ill and has no intention of avoiding trial. Previous lawyers for Arroyo have pointed out the weakness of evidence against her as a major reason why bail should be granted.

The new group stressed that what they want the court to understand is that they are presenting an entirely new argument. They said that even if the graft court should still affirm that evidence against Arroyo in the plunder case is strong, “she is nonetheless entitled to bail because she is not a flight risk and she remains ill.

The former President is one of the principal accused in a plunder case alleging misuse of P366 million corporate funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office between 2007 and 2010.

Named co-defendants were former top officials of PCSO and the Commission on Audit. Co-accused Manuel Morato, Raymundo Roquero and Sergio Valencia who have already been granted bail by the anti-graft court.

Defense lawyers stressed that the Supreme Court en banc, in a 1953 ruling in the case of Montano vs. Ocampo, held that bail maybe granted even in a capital offense and regardless of a finding that evidence of guilt is strong.

In the same ruling, the SC required only that the defendant be able to satisfy the court that the likelihood of escape to evade prosecution be “remote, if not nil.”

“President Arroyo is not a flight risk. The possibility of President Arroyo’s escape, bearing in mind her official and social standing and her other personal circumstances, is remote, if not nil,” the defense said.

They pointed out that she served government as a senator from 1992 to 1998, as Vice President from 1998 to 2001 and as President from 2001 to 2010. Arroyo’s lawyers added that she is now completing her second term as congresswoman of her home province of Pampanga and all members of her family are residing in the country.

On the matter of Arroyo’s personal health, they noted that she is now 66 years old, frail and losing weight. She has also undergone three operations to her cervical spine but remains ill, requiring regular therapy.

“She has no intention of living the life of a fugitive and her condition precludes her from living the life of a fugitive. President Arroyo, to this day, … stands innocent before the law. Unless and until a court of law finds her guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime with which she is charged, she remains innocent,” the defense stressed.

At the same time, Arroyo’s camp cited the pronouncements of the Supreme Court en banc in the 1946 case of De La Rama vs. the People’s Court which overturned the lower court’s denial of bail for defendant Francisco De La Rama who was suffering from tuberculosis and pharyngitis.

In the said ruling, the SC noted that former Senator Benigno S. Aquino who was charged with treason, was likewise granted bail on medical reasons on the ground that his continued incarceration at the New Bilibid Prisons was injurious to his health.