CASE DIGEST: Macapagal-Arroyo v. People of the Philippines [G.R. No. 220598, July 19, 2016]


Full text of the Decision (Bersamin, J.)

Dissenting opinions:

Sereno, C.J.

Leonen, J.

Concurring and dissenting: Perlas-Bernabe, J.

Plunder Law (Republic Act No. 7080, as amended by Republic Act No. 7659)


Petitioners in this case are former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) Budget and Accounts Officer Benigno Aguas.

The Ombudsman charged in the Sandiganbayan with plunder as defined by, and penalized under Section 2 of Republic Act (R.A.) No. 7080, as amended by R.A. No. 7659 the following: (1) GMA, (2) Aguas, (3) former PCSO General Manager and Vice Chairman Rosario C. Uriarte, (4) former PCSO Chairman of the Board of Directors Sergio O. Valencia, (5) former members of the PCSO Board of Directors, and (6) two former officials of the Commission on Audit (COA).

The information read:

…[the] accused…all public officers committing the offense in relation to their respective offices and taking undue advantage of their respective official positions, authority, relationships, connections or influence, conniving, conspiring and confederating with one another, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and criminally amass, accumulate and/or acquire. Directly or indirectly, ill-gotten wealth in the aggregate amount or total value of THREE HUNDRED SIXTY FIVE MILLION NINE HUNDRED NINETY SEVEN THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED FIFTEEN PESOS (PHP365,997,915.00), more or less, through any or a combination or a series of overt or criminal acts, or similar schemes or means, described as follows:

(a) diverting in several instances, funds from the operating budget of PCSO to its Confidential/Intelligence Fund that could be accessed and withdrawn at any time with minimal restrictions, · and converting, misusing, and/or illegally conveying or transferring the proceeds drawn from said fund in the aforementioned sum, also in several instances, to themselves, in the guise of fictitious expenditures, for their personal gain and benefit;

(b) raiding the public treasury by withdrawing and receiving, in several instances, the above-mentioned amount from the Confidential/Intelligence Fund from PCSO’s accounts, and or unlawfully transferring or conveying the same into their possession and control through irregularly issued disbursement vouchers and fictitious expenditures; and

(c) taking advantage of their respective official positions, authority, relationships, connections or influence, in several instances, to unjustly enrich themselves in the aforementioned sum, at the expense of, and the damage and prejudice of the Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines.


The Sandiganbayan eventually acquired jurisidiction over most of the accused, including petitioners. All filed petitions for bail, which the Sandiganbayan granted except those of the petitioners. Their motions for reconsideration were denied. GMA assailed the denial of her petition for bail before the Supreme Court. However, this remains unresolved.

After the Prosecution rested its case, the accused separately filed their demurrers to evidence asserting that the Prosecution did not establish a case for plunder against them.

The Sandiganbayan granted the demurrers and dismissed the case against the accused within its jurisdiction, except for petitioners and Valencia. It held that there was sufficient evidence showing that they had conspired to commit plunder.

Petitioners filed this case before the Supreme Court on certiorari before the Supreme Court to assail the denial of their demurrers to evidence, on the ground of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.


1.) Procedural Issue: WON the special civil action for certiorari is proper to assail the denial of the demurrers to evidence – YES.

PROSECUTION: The petition for certiorari of GMA was improper to challenge the denial of her demurrer to evidence.

HELD: Certiorari is proper since the Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion in denying GMA’s demurrer to evidence.

General rule: The special civil action for certiorari is generally not proper to assail such an interlocutory order issued by the trial court because of the availability of another remedy in the ordinary course of law. Moreover, Section 23, Rule 119 of the Rules of Court expressly provides, “the order denying the motion for leave of court to file demurrer to evidence or the demurrer itself shall not be reviewable by appeal or by certiorari before judgment.”

Exception: “In the exercise of our superintending control over other courts, we are to be guided by all the circumstances of each particular case ‘as the ends of justice may require.’ So it is that the writ will be granted where necessary to prevent a substantial wrong or to do substantial” (citing Ong v. People [G.R. No. 140904, October 9, 2000]).

2.) Substantive Issue: WoN the Prosecution sufficiently established the existence of conspiracy among GMA, Aguas, and Uriarte – NO.

A. As regards petitioner GMA

HELD: The Supreme Court rejected the Sandiganbayan’s declaration in denying GMA’s demurrer that GMA, Aguas, and Uriate had conspired and committed plunder. The Prosecution did not sufficiently allege the existence of a conspiracy among GMA, Aguas and Uriarte.

A perusal of the information (quoted above) suggests that what the Prosecution sought to show was an implied conspiracy to commit plunder among all of the accused on the basis of their collective actions prior to, during and after the implied agreement. It is notable that the Prosecution did not allege that the conspiracy among all of the accused was by express agreement, or was a wheel conspiracy or a chain conspiracy. This was another fatal flaw of the Prosecution.

Section 2 of Republic Act No. 7080 (Plunder Law) requires in the criminal charge for plunder against several individuals that there must be a main plunderer and her co-conspirators, who may be members of her family, relatives by affinity or consanguinity, business associates, subordinates or other persons. In other words, the allegation of the wheel conspiracy or express conspiracy in the information was appropriate because the main plunderer would then be identified in either manner. Citing Estrada v. Sandiganbayan, “The gravamen of the conspiracy charge…is that each of them, by their individual acts, agreed to participate, directly or indirectly, in the amassing, accumulation and acquisition of ill-gotten wealth of and/or for former President Estrada.”

Such identification of the main plunderer was not only necessary because the law required such identification, but also because it was essential in safeguarding the rights of all of the accused to be properly informed of the charges they were being made answerable for.

In fine, the Prosecution’s failure to properly allege the main plunderer should be fatal to the cause against the petitioners for violating the rights of each accused to be informed of the charges against each of them.

PROSECUTION: GMA, Uriarte and Aguas committed acts showing the existence of an implied conspiracy among themselves, thereby making all of them the main plunderers. The sole overt act of GMA to become a part of the conspiracy was her approval via the marginal note of “OK” of all the requests made by Uriarte for the use of additional intelligence fund. By approving Uriaiie’s requests in that manner, GMA violated the following:

a. Letter of Instruction 1282, which required requests for additional confidential and intelligence funds (CIFs) to be accompanied with detailed, specific project proposals and specifications; and

b. COA Circular No. 92-385, which allowed the President to approve the release of additional CIFs only if there was an existing budget to cover the request.

HELD: GMA’s approval of Uriarte’s requests for additional CIFs did not make her part of any design to raid the public treasury as the means to amass, accumulate and acquire illgotten wealth. Absent the specific allegation in the information to that effect, and competent proof thereon, GMA’s approval of Uriarte’s requests, even if unqualified, could not make her part of any criminal conspiracy to commit plunder or any other crime considering that her approval was not by any means irregular or illegal.

a. An examination of Uriarte’s several requests indicates their compliance with LOI No. 1282. The requests, similarly worded, furnished:

(1) the full details of the specific purposes for which the funds would be spent;

(2) the explanations of the circumstances giving rise to the necessity of the expenditure; and

(3) the particular aims to be accomplished.

The additional CIFs requested were to be used to protect PCSO’s image and the integrity of its operations. According to its terms, LOI No. 1282 did not detail any qualification as to how specific the requests should be made.

b. The funds of the PCSO were comingled into one account as early as 2007. Consequently, although only 15% of PCSO’s revenues was appropriated to an operation fund from which the CIF could be sourced, the remaining 85% of PCSO’s revenues, already co-mingled with the operating fund, could still sustain the additional requests. In short, there was available budget from which to draw the additional requests for CIFs.

PROSECUTION: GMA had known that Uriarte would raid the public treasury, and would misuse the amounts disbursed. This knowledge was imputed to GMA by virtue of her power of control over PCSO.

HELD: The Prosecution seems to be relying on the doctrine of command responsibility to impute the actions of subordinate officers to GMA as the superior officer. The reliance is misplaced, for incriminating GMA under those terms was legally unacceptable and incomprehensible.

The application of the doctrine of command responsibility is limited, and cannot be true for all litigations. This case involves neither a probe of GMA’s actions as the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, nor of a human rights issue (compare to Rodriguez v. Macapagal-Arroyo [G.R. No. 191805, November 15, 2011]).

B. As regards Aguas

HELD: Aguas’ certifications and signatures on the disbursement vouchers were insufficient bases to conclude that he was into any conspiracy to commit plunder or any other crime. Without GMA’s participation, he could not release any money because there was then no budget available for the additional CIFs. Whatever irregularities he might have committed did not amount to plunder, or to any implied conspiracy to commit plunder.

3.) Substantive Issue: WoN the Prosecution sufficiently established all the elements of the crime of plunder – NO.

A. WoN there was evidence of amassing, accumulating or acquiring ill-gotten wealth in the total amount of not less than P50 million – NO.

HELD: The Prosecution adduced no evidence showing that either GMA or Aguas or even Uriarte, for that matter, had amassed, accumulated or acquired illgotten wealth of any amount. There was also no evidence, testimonial or otherwise, presented by the Prosecution showing even the remotest possibility that the CIFs of the PCSO had been diverted to either GMA or Aguas, or Uriarte.

B. WoN the predicate act of raiding the public treasury alleged in the information was proved by the Prosecution – NO.

SANDIGANBAYAN: In order to prove the predicate act of raids of the public treasury, the Prosecution need not establish that the public officer had benefited from such act; and that what was necessary was proving that the public officer had raided the public coffers.

HELD:  The common thread that binds all the four terms in Section 1(d) of Republic Act No. 7080 together (misappropriation, conversion, misuse or malversation of public funds) is that the public officer used the property taken. Pursuant to the maxim of noscitur a sociis, raids on the public treasury requires the raider to use the property taken impliedly for his personal benefit.

ETV: The Plus Factor in K+12

Author’s note: A few years into K to 12, with the first batch of Grade 11 students, educational television (ETV) has yet to make a comeback to reflect the new educational system reality. With change finally here, perhaps the Department of Education under Secretary Leonor Briones can invest on these types of shows. It would be interesting to watch shows teaching math or science using the mother tongues of the different regions.

This unedited piece was originally submitted as a position paper for the English 10 (College English) course under Professor Maria Lorena Santos, Second Semester AY 2011-2, University of the Philippines Diliman.

Do the names Kuya Bodjie, Pong Pagong and Kiko Matsing ring a bell? How about the line “Bawat bata may tanong. Ba’t ganito, ba’t gano’n?” As the Internet meme goes, “If you remember these, your childhood was awesome.” For those who cannot recall or are unfamiliar with these, the first three are characters from Batibot, “the Philippines’ answer to the widely popular children’s program Sesame Street” (“Tayo na sa Batibot”) and as such was geared towards “[addressing] all aspects of early childhood growth and development” (Philippine Children’s). Meanwhile, the line above was taken from the theme song of Sine’skwela, which focused on elementary science and technology concepts and applications. It was one of the shows produced by the ABS-CBN Foundation using “curriculum-based scripts…under deep scrutiny of the Department of Education [or DepEd]” along with Math-tinik, Hirayamanawari and Bayani (“When Stars Help”).

These shows are just a few examples of children’s television. According to the Children’s Television Act Of 1997, children’s television refers to programs and other materials broadcast on television that are specifically designed for viewing by Filipino children, all persons below eighteen years old. These programs often serve educational purposes, which according to Senate Bill No. 1443, filed by Senator Loren Legarda and currently pending in the committee level, include the following:

1) Give positive influence on entertainment;

2) Promote social values;

3) Mobilize community support to, and wage information campaigns directed at parents to promote the importance of basic education;

4) Improve the image of technical education and skills training and to inculcate the necessary values needed for productive employment;

5)  Propagate culture, foster patriotism and nationalism and other values that serve as an instrument in the struggle for Filipino sovereignty, identity, national unity and integration. (Children’s Television)

Synonymous terms to children’s television with educational purposes include “education-oriented children’s television”, “educational programs”, “educational shows” and “educational television” or ETV.

Education-oriented children’s television, however, has suffered a decline in the past decade. Laurence Andrade, in his undergraduate thesis, interviewed several persons involved in the production of such shows. “[They] all agreed that there is a significant decline in children’s programming, particularly those with educational content, as compared to its condition ten to fifteen years ago” (Andrade 30). Foreign anime and cartoons, which are cheaper to import, now form a large part of children’s programming with only weekends allotted for locally-produced educational shows. The problem is not “with quality but on quantity” (Andrade 47).

Andrade’s study cited several reasons that have contributed to this decline. For example, sponsors prefer entertainment programs over education-oriented children’s television. “The writers and program managers explained that advertisers do not look at children viewers as an important market for their products” (Andrade 30). The government does not also see the value of tapping television in advancing children’s education. Mag Hatol Cruz, secretary-general of the Anak TV Foundation, lamented that his organization has been appealing in vain for support:

First, they tried to convince the government to formulate implementing rules and regulation for [the National Council for Children’s Television or] NCCT to be able to serve its purpose. [He] also shared that they appealed to be given programming slots to even just one government station. (Andrade 39)

Despite the rising popularity of social media and the Internet, television is still the most popular media platform in the Philippines according to the 2010 Nielsen Audience Measurement report (“Filipinos Still Glued”). Furthermore, in 2006, two to twelve year olds spent the most time watching television, with 3.7 hours a day (AGB Nielsen Media Research). Yet, the government does not realize this. It must therefore be made aware of the power of using television in order to promote the education of Filipino children.

Consequentially, the present Aquino administration needs to forge partnerships with local television networks and producers in order to facilitate a revival of educational television. This comes at a crucial time, as the DepEd is keen on pushing through with the K+12 educational system. In a span of four years starting this June, a transition period will take place, with the addition of two years of senior high school to the current 10-year cycle. During this period, students are allowed to specialize in either of the following: science and technology, music and arts, agriculture and fisheries, sports, business and entrepreneurship (Hernando-Malipot) as well as technical and vocational education under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Crisostomo). Thus, instructional materials need to be updated in order to address this and other changes in the curriculum.

In addition, educational programs improve students’ academic performances. A thesis by Miriam College students in 1995 involved grade three and six pupils of Project 6 Elementary School in Quezon City, which were divided into two groups, with one group exposed to Sine’skwela. Over the course of the study, four five-point evaluation exams were given to both groups and the scores were compared. The researchers found out that “There was a significant difference between the acquisition of learning between the experimental group [those exposed to Sine’skwela] and control group [those who were not]. There was [also] a significant relationship between the exposure of the experimental group and the control group” (Aranas, et al.). In other words, Sine’skwela was an effective instructional material for science and technology.

Similarly, children’s television with educational purposes also has a positive effect on teachers. Leo Larkin, who studied its feasibility in Greater Manila during the 1960s, believes that ETV “[frees] teachers [from] extra class preparation [in order to perform] further duties such as guidance counseling, teaching special groups of slow learners or gifted students, or taking extra-curricular activities” (qtd. in “Practicability of Educational Television”). Additionally, a thesis by Katherine Balite in 1999 surveyed 112 Math teachers from various public and private elementary schools in Metro Manila, “99 percent of [whom] have positive opinion[s] on the program [Math-tinik]” (qtd. in Andrade 10).

Educational shows also maintain a certain teaching standard. According to Wilbur Schramm, in his book “The Impact of Educational Television: Selected Studies from the Research Sponsored by the National Educational Television and Radio Center [of the United States]”, “[Such shows] can supply the best teaching demonstrations. [Their] self-instructional materials can conduct lessons professionally, and [they] can give the student the freedom to work at his own desired pace. Television can display an event or activity that would otherwise be spoiled for direct observation. This is especially true for Science classes, which deal with many fragile specimens” (Schramm 5 qtd. in “Practicability of Educational Television”).

A crucial problem with education-oriented children’s television is that prolonged television viewing weakens the left hemisphere of the brain, which controls language and speech functions. According to Kate Moody, “The eye and brain functions employed in TV viewing are likely to put demands on different parts of the brain than those used in reading, causing incalculably different kinds of cognitive development” (67). Neil Postman wrote in his “Teaching as a Conserving Activity” that fast-moving, concrete and discontinuous television imagery requires emotional responses, and not conceptual or logical processes. For Postman, “the TV curriculum poses a serious challenge, not merely to school performance, but civilization itself.” Thus, solely relying on television as a medium of instruction is disadvantageous. Its use must be balanced with other learning experiences and materials so that students get a full understanding of the lessons taught in class.

Critics may also argue that it is impractical to produce local educational shows since they would only rehash the content of their foreign counterparts, and that it would be cheaper to import these instead. On the other hand, Filipino children may have a hard time grasping Western concepts and values and applying them in the Philippine setting. Only home-grown programs can provide elements that are close to home.

In a nutshell, a resurgence of children’s television with educational purposes can only take place through the participation of all stakeholders involved, the most imperative of which is the partnership of the government and local television networks. (Experts from different fields of study such as the sciences, languages and history should also be consulted. Quantity should not be at the expense of quality.) The benefits of educational programs outweigh its shortcomings. Truly, ETV is the plus factor in K+12.

Works Cited:

AGB Nielsen Media Research. “Luzonians Are TV Addicts, AGB Nielsen Media Research Study Reveals.” Nielsen Television Audience Measurement. 15 Nov. 2006. Web. 4 Mar. 2012.

Andrade, Laurence Joy. “Sine’skwe…Wala Na?: A Descriptive Study On The Decline Of Children’s Educational Programs On Free Television.” Diss. U of the Philippines Diliman, 2010. Print.

Aranas, Juliet, Ann Margaret Dumlao, Ma. Luisa Madamba, Estela Mesina, Lalaine Verba, and Lorren Viay. Effect of Scientific Ideas Embodied in Sineskwela on the Performance of 3rd and 6th Grade Students in Their Science Exam. Diss. Miriam College, 1995. Quezon City: The Authors, 1995. Print.

Balite, Katherine. “Teachers’ Perspectives on the TV Program “Math-Tinik” as a Learning Aid for Elementary School Children: A Survey.” Diss. U of the Philippines Diliman, 1999. Print.

Children’s Television Act of 1997. Republic Act No. 8370. 28 Oct. 1997. Official Gazette. Print.

Crisostomo, Shiela. “Tech-Voc Eyed Under K+12.” The Philippine Star 29 May 2011: n.pag. Print.

Department of Education Naga. “The Practicability of Educational Television in the Philippines.” Educational TV (ETV) Program. n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2012.

“Filipinos Still Glued to the Tube, Nielsen Survey Says”. Philippine Daily Inquirer 10 Mar. 2011: n.pag. Print.

Hernando-Malipot, Ina. “Are You Ready for K+12?” Manila Bulletin 13 May 2011: n.pag. Print.

Larkin, Leo. Towards Educational Television for a Greater Manila. New York: n.p., 1960. Print.

Moody, Kate. Growing Up on Television – The TV Effect. New York: Times Books, 1980. Print.

Philippine Children’s Television Foundation, Inc. “Batibot Profile.” Batibot. Internet Archive, 1997. Web. 2 Mar. 2012.

Postman, Neil. Teaching as a Conserving Activity. New York: Delacorte Press, 1979. Print.

Schramm, Wilbur Lang. The Impact of Educational Television: Selected Studies from the Research Sponsored by the National Educational Television and Radio Center. Urbana: Illinois UP, 1960. Print.

“Tayo na sa Batibot As It Returns on TV.” Red Carpet Entertainment Magazine 23 Apr. 2010: 2. Print.

“When Stars Help Teach Children.” Manila Bulletin 8 Sep. 2009: n.pag. Print.