Ex-Philippine president arrested in hospital

Arroyo to face trial for electoral fraud, despite her lawyers’ pleas that she needs overseas medical help.

After a day of legal drama, Arroyo was served an arrest warrant in her hospital suite in Manila late on Friday [Reuters]

The former Philippine president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has had her photographs and fingerprints taken in a hospital room in Manila, following her arrest on electoral-fraud charges.

Police Senior Superintendent Jose Coronel said Arroyo was wearing a neck brace and hospital gown when her mugshots were taken on Saturday inside her room at the St Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City in Manila.

“Some intravenous fluids were also being administered to her,” he said. “The fingerprints and pictures are now with our technicians for processing.”

Lawyers of the Arroyo family appealed to the media not to publish the mugshots to avoid further humiliation for the 64-year-old former president.

About 30 police officers were deployed at the entrances and exits of the hospital since Friday evening when the arrest warrant was served to Arroyo. Two officers were also assigned to guard her room at the private hospital.

The Philippine supreme court upheld on Friday Arroyo’s right to travel but a lower court later accepted the formal charges against her. The government rushed the case in court, saying she could be trying to evade justice.

Wrongdoing denied

Seventeen months after stepping down, Arroyo has become the second former Philippine president to face trial.

She denies wrongdoing and accuses the authorities of preventing her from seeking overseas medical treatment for a bone ailment.

Al Jazeera’s Marga Ortigas reports from Manila on the legal drama surrounding ex-president Arroyo’s arrest

Her lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, said the government had filed fabricated charges with “indecent haste”.

He said he would start filing appeals when courts reopen on Monday.

Arroyo has been recovering in a hospital since her failed attempt to leave the country on Tuesday.

Arroyo ruled the Philippines for more than nine years until last year, when she won a seat in the lower house of parliament.

The charges arise from allegations that she conspired with officials to tamper with results of 2007 congressional polls to favour her candidates.

She was accused of having direct knowledge of massive cheating in an autonomous Muslim region in the southern Philippines, the country’s poorest region.

An investigation this year by the Senate Electoral Tribunal found that an Arroyo ally, Miguel Zubiri, benefited from fake ballots. He resigned his senate seat in favour of an opposition candidate.

Repeated setbacks

Benigno Aquino, the current Philippine president, won a landslide presidential election on an anti-corruption platform and has pledged to bring Arroyo to justice, but has faced repeated setbacks to his campaign.

In one of the most prominent blows, the supreme court ruled in December last year that a “truth commission” that Aquino set up specifically to investigate Arroyo was unconstitutional.

If Arroyo is found guilty she could face a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.

Politics in the Philippines is notorious for corruption, vote-rigging and long-running bitter rivalries between clans and families.

Arroyo, herself the daughter of a former president, has been surrounded by corruption allegations for years, and survived several attempts to have her impeached while in office.

Her predecessor Joseph Estrada, was jailed for corruption, and another former leader, Ferdinand Marcos, amassed a vast fortune by embezzling public money.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies


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