Former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been placed under arrest at a hospital on plunder charges for allegedly conspiring to loot nearly nine million dollars in state lottery funds.
A Philippine anti-graft court ordered on Thursday the arrest of the former president for allegedly stealing the funds meant for charity programmes, and spending the money on election campaigns.
Police arrested Arroyo, 65, at a military hospital in Manila where she had checked in on Thursday morning for treatment for a long-term spinal illness.
“Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is now under the custody and detention of the Philippine National Police,” Senior Superintendent Napoleon Coronel told reporters outside the hospital shortly after she was arrested.
However Coronel said she would remain in hospital overnight, and the anti-graft court handling the case would determine later whether she could be moved.
Plunder, or the crime of amassing ill-gotten wealth worth at least 50 million pesos (1.2 million dollars), is an offence ineligible for bail and punishable by life imprisonment.
Thursday’s arrest is the third to be issued for the former leader, who was released on bail in July after spending eight months in detention at a military-run hospital on electoral fraud charges.
Arroyo also posted bail in March after the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court ordered her arrest on graft charges for allegedly receiving bribes and illegal commissions from an anomalous government contract with a Chinese firm.
Officials have denied Arroyo’s request to seek medical treatment abroad, saying she may not return to face the charges.
One of Arroyo’s lawyers, Anacleto Diaz, said she had reacted badly after being told on Wednesday night that she would be arrested again.
“She was not just disappointed, she was distraught. She was very sad,” Diaz told AFP news agency, while insisting the case against her was very weak.
Arroyo could face life in jail if found guilty of the plunder charge. Nine other lottery and government officials have also been charged over their alleged involvement.