Philippine court clears ex-president Arroyo of plunder

Supreme Court also ordered the immediate release of the former leader after nearly five years of detention in hospital.

    The Philippine Supreme Court has dismissed a plunder charge against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, ordering her immediate release after nearly five years of detention in hospital.

    Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said on Tuesday that 15 justices had voted 11-4 to grant Arroyo's petition seeking the dismissal of her corruption case owing to a lack of evidence.

    The case involved the alleged misuse of $7.8 million from the government's charity office.

    The 69-year-old Arroyo, who is suffering from a neck ailment, finished her tumultuous nine-year term in 2010. She was arrested the following year on an election fraud charge, for which she was allowed to post bail.

    Later charged with plunder, she was arrested in hospital while receiving treatment for a spinal condition and it was decided she could serve her detention there.

    Despite her detention in hospital, she was re-elected as a member of Congress in May.

    Of the 11 justices who voted for Arroyo's acquittal, eight were her appointees.

    Raul Lambino, a lawyer for Arroyo, said the plunder case was the only remaining criminal charge against the former president.

    "We hope that by today ... the [former] president will be able to go home to her residence," he said.

    Arroyo's husband, Jose Miguel, also welcomed the Supreme Court's decision, saying: "Thank God. They took away six years of her life - an innocent woman. We're very happy."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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