The grant of bail in the electoral sabotage case against former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a "big slap in the face" of President Benigno Aquino III, a militant lawmaker who criticized Aquino just days ago for failing to hold the former President accountable said.
The decision by Judge Jesus Mupas of the Pasay City Regional Trial Court to grant Arroyo bail of P1 million came just two days after Aquino highlighted his administration's drive against corruption in his annual State of the Nation Address.
"The court decision was made apparently because the government's complaint of electoral sabotage was rushed, owing to its failure to build up any of the major cases filed earlier by various citizen's groups," Bayan Muna party-list Representative Teddy Casino said. At a protest rally Monday, Casino criticized the government for downgrading a plunder complaint--which has a heavier penalty--filed by his group over the scrapped ZTE National Broadband Network deal.
"Clearly, the government should exert greater efforts to hold Mrs. Arroyo and her conspirators accountable for their crimes," he said.
But the Commission on Elections, which is prosecuting the case, said the grant of bail is “not a setback at all.”
Administration allies in the Senate have meanwhile played down the bail decision.
Senator Franklin Drilon, senior Liberal at the Senate, said the right to bail is a right of the accused. He said, however, that "government will not go slow in prosecuting GMA for the abuses and excesses of her nine-year misrule." He added prosecuting Arroyo is not about vindictiveness, a charge that President Aquino’s critics have hurled against him.
"This is about justice and holding public officials accountable for their actions," Drilon said.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, also a member of the Liberal Party, said having Arroyo out on bail is not anything to be alarmed about. He said that as long as a hold-departure order issued by the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court on a separate graft charge stands, the former President cannot flee the country. "Ang mahalaga ay haharap ang akusado sa mga paratang laban sa kanya," he said in a press statement.
He added the people will not allow her to leave the country if she does try to fly off. "Iba na ang panahon ngayon. Taumbayan na mismo ang masigasig na nakaabang at nagmamasid laban sa katiwalian at pagpataw ng hustisya," he said.
But Senator Panfilo Lacson, who is not in LP but is friendly to Malacanang, said "it is bad enough that GMA has been granted temporary liberty, (but) the worse implication is that it posits the existence of a weak electoral sabotage case against her by the joint DOJ-Comelec panel."
"One obvious lesson learned from the experience is we cannot build up a strong case through press releases and media interviews," he said, possibly referring to Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, whom he has criticized in the past for holding press conferences often.
"Rather, it takes hard work and the gift of skill and well-rounded knowledge of law, not to mention the rules of court and proper legal procedures to accomplish the same," the senator added.