THE SUPREME Court (SC) has granted the appeal of former first gentleman Jose Miguel T. Arroyo to drop a graft charge against him in a case related to the procurement of secondhand choppers by the police force in 2009.
In a decision dated Dec. 1 but made public on April 10, the High Court’s special third division said the alleged conspiracy between public officers and Mr. Arroyo had not been proven by the prosecution.
The High Court ordered the Sandiganbayan, a special tribunal handling graft and corruption trials, to drop the case information filed against Mr. Arroyo over his alleged involvement in the irregular procurement of three helicopters amounting to P105 million.
“The prosecution has a duty to establish at the preliminary investigation level that there is a reasonable belief that Arroyo connived with public officers to commit the offense charged against him,” the court said in a ruling written by Retired SC Associate Justice Rosmari D. Carandang.
“Otherwise, the Sandiganbayan cannot take cognizance of the case and put Arroyo on trial and the court cannot blindly follow the prosecutor’s certification as to the existence of probable cause.”
The SC noted that the Office of the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion in finding probable cause against Mr. Arroyo due to insufficient evidence.
The Office of the Ombudsman said the irregular transaction cost the Philippine National Police and the government P34.6 million.
The High Court last year affirmed the anti-graft tribunal’s order for the Anti-Money Laundering Council to disclose bank records related to the procurement of the alleged secondhand choppers that were priced as new units.
In a separate dissenting opinion, SC Associate Justice Marvic M.V.M Leonen said the High Court should not “interfere with the Office of the Ombudsman’s exercise of prerogatives, unless there is clear showing of grave abuse of discretion.”
Mr. Leonen added that Mr. Arroyo’s appeal to the High Court should be considered moot because the Sandiganbayan already rejected his motion for judicial determination of guilt.
“The evidence on record engenders the reasonable belief that petitioner may have committed the crime and that he should stand on trial,” he said. ” There being no clear showing that respondent (Sandiganbayan) and the Office of the Ombudsman acted with grave abuse of discretion, this court should not interfere with their findings of probable cause.” — John Victor D. Ordoñez