So it appears that justice has finally been given to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) after the Supreme Court of the Philippines has acquitted her for the plunder charges the administration of her successor, former President Noynoy Aquino (Noynoy), has filed. More than 4 years of GMA’s life was unjustly taken from her when she was arbitrarily detained by the vindictive Noynoy administration, which legal experts and human rights advocates from the international community even saw as a form of political persecution. What I find odd is that former Commission on Human Rights Chairperson and now Senator Leila De Lima stated that she was disheartened by the verdict. She claims that the Supreme Court is not a trier of facts and felt that the Court should not have undermined the role of the Sandiganbayan. Quite odd for someone who is supposed to be a “champion of human rights” wanting to uphold a glaring human rights violation. But is De Lima’s argument really sound? Let’s assess, shall we?
While it is true that the exercise of the Supreme Court is power of review and does not normally undertake the re-examination of the evidence presented by the contending parties during the trial of the case considering that the findings of facts of a lower Court such as the Court of Appeals and in this case, the Sandiganbayan, are conclusive and binding on the Court, there are several exceptions to this rule. In the case of “The Insular Life Assurance Company, Ltd. vs. Court of Appeals and Sun Brothers & Company” (G.R. 126850), the Supreme Court said:
“It is a settled rule that in the exercise of the Supreme Court’s power of review, the Court is not a trier of facts and does not normally undertake the re-examination of the evidence presented by the contending parties during the trial of the case considering that the findings of facts of the CA are conclusive and binding on the Court. However, the Court had recognized several exceptions to this rule, to wit: (1) when the findings are grounded entirely on speculation, surmises or conjectures; (2) when the inference made is manifestly mistaken, absurd or impossible; (3) when there is grave abuse of discretion; (4) when the judgment is based on a misapprehension of facts; (5) when the findings of facts are conflicting; (6) when in making its findings the Court of Appeals went beyond the issues of the case, or its findings are contrary to the admissions of both the appellant and the appellee; (7) when the findings are contrary to the trial court; (8) when the findings are conclusions without citation of specific evidence on which they are based; (9) when the facts set forth in the petition as well as in the petitioner’s main and reply briefs are not disputed by the respondent; (10) when the findings of fact are premised on the supposed absence of evidence and contradicted by the evidence on record; and (11) when the Court of Appeals manifestly overlooked certain relevant facts not disputed by the parties, which, if properly considered, would justify a different conclusion.”
De Lima seems to be either oblivious to the exceptions or is merely all too willing to be blind just to maintain her benefactor’s trophy of having GMA remain in detention. In the case for GMA, even if the Sandiganbayan has denied GMA’s demurrer to evidence, it looks like at least exceptions (1) and (3) are applicable (perhaps even more as we await for the full text of the ruling). I believe GMA’s counsel, Atty. Estelito Mendoza, has argued GMA’s case very well. He was able to argue that GMA never directly acquired any money from the confidential intelligence funds as alleged by GMA’s accusers and that she should not be convicted merely just for the reason of being President during the time when the supposed crime happened. Atty. Mendoza said:
“In all my years as a defense lawyer, a prosecution lawyer, a solicitor general for 14 years, I have never seen a case like this when an accused is being detained without any single evidence produced to establish that she committed the crime charged…
In fact, not a single exhibit in the 637 exhibits offered by the prosecution or a single testimony of the 21 witnesses prove that she amassed, accumulated or acquired even a single peso of the P365-million CIF (confidential intelligence funds) alleged in the information.”
He also said that the Supreme Court should correct the Sandiganbayan’s grave abuse of discretion and not allow the conviction of GMA based on just one fact – that she was the president of the Philippines from the period January 2008 to June 2010. I agree with Atty. Mendoza and I also join Atty. Ferdinand Topacio in his statement against the vindictive and inept administration of Noynoy. Atty. Topacio said of the Supreme Court ruling that:
“Its ruling today has validated what we have been saying for six years now: that the charges against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo are nothing more than disingenuous attempts at political persecution by a corrupt and inept Aquino Administration intent on covering up its gross lack of accomplishments by harassing its political opponents”.
Kudos to the Supreme Court of the Philippines! I believe the Supreme Court, in this case, has effectively redeemed itself from the dark cloud of judicial activism it has shown in a previous divisive case. Now as for Sen. Leila De Lima, I really hope that one day she will realize that her role now is to craft meaningful laws for the benefit of the people and not an attack dog or bootlicker of a heartless and incompetent former President anymore. Either that or I hope she would shut up about her pretentions and perhaps just sing to the criminals she seems to give more importance to.
(Picture taken from The Pinoy Big Blogger)
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