Published : Saturday, November 05, 2011 00:00
Written by : Jomar Canlas, Reporter
THROW in religion and perhaps my enemy would have second thoughts in seemingly trying to make a martyr of me.
This could have crossed the mind of former President and now Rep. Gloria Arroyo of Pampanga province when her camp officially announced late this week that she had hired the legal services of Artemio Tuquero—an Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) member and Justice chief of the Estrada administration—to defend her from charges of electoral sabotage filed by the government.
Tuquero was short-listed for the position of Ombudsman but President Benigno Aquino 3rd appointed retired Supreme Court (SC) Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales.
He was appointed as a member of the Judicial and Bar Council but was later on not reappointed by President Aquino and was replaced by lawyer Jose Mejia as the JBC representative for the academe.
Tuquero said that his being the former president’s lawyer had everything to do with the legal profession.
“Being a lawyer for GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) has nothing to do with my religion,” he explained.
According to sources of The Manila Times, the Iglesia ni Cristo (Church of Christ) and President Aquino are engaged in a “cold war” over his allegedly making negative remarks against the politically influential religious group.
The INC endorsed then-Sen. Aquino as its official candidate in the May 2010 presidential race but was said to be ignored later when the senator won.
The INC is known for its block-voting policy and many politicians seek its endorsement in every election.
The only INC member who still holds the job given him by Mr. Aquino is Director Magtanggol Gatdula of the National Bureau of Investigation.
The relationship between the INC and Malacañang even became more sour after Rep. Niel Tupas of Iloilo province, the chairman of the House justice committee, disclosed that the church was helping then-Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez in her move to junk an impeachment complaint against her before the House of Representatives.
Gutierrez then was represented by another INC member—former Supreme Court (SC) Justice Sera-fin Cuevas.
Mrs. Arroyo and husband, lawyer Jose Miguel Arroyo and several others are facing poll-sabotage charges before the Department of Justice (DOJ) for allegedly manipulating results of the 2004 elections for senators.
During preliminary investigation on Thursday, Tuquero made a manifestation, saying that they will file the appropriate motion before the DOJ and the Commission on Elections (Comelec), which are jointly hearing the charges against the Arroyos and the others who are accused.
He questioned the impartiality of the DOJ-Comelec panel in the conduct of the preliminary investigation, saying that he was worried that the right to due process of his client would be violated.
Tuquero said that there might already be a pre-judgment of the case based on earlier pronouncements of the DOJ and the Comelec that some individuals would be charged in court in connection with the alleged election fraud.
Once the joint panel dismissed the motion, Tuquero said that they will file a petition before the Supreme Court seeking to stop the ongoing investigation.
The camp of the respondents in the alleged election fraud were furnished with copies of the criminal complaint and a report of the fact-finding team and the complaint-affidavit of Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd.
The panel set the next hearing for November 14, 2011 before which the respondents will have submitted their counter- affidavits.