Not guilty plea filed for Philippines' Arroyo

Judge acts on ex-president's behalf after she refuses to enter plea on charges of misusing $8.8m in state lottery funds.

    If found guilty, Arroyo and her co-accused could face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment [EPA]
    If found guilty, Arroyo and her co-accused could face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment [EPA]

    A Philippine court has entered a not-guilty plea for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the former president, on charges she misused $8.8m in state lottery funds in the third corruption case against her.

    Arroyo, seated in a wheelchair and wearing a neck brace at the court in Manila on Monday, refused to enter a plea and prompted the judge to record a not guilty on her behalf.

    Nine other people, mostly former officials of the state lottery agency, are also charged in the case.

    They allegedly conspired with Arroyo during her last years in office to divert public funds for her personal gain.

    Arroyo is suffering from a neck ailment, and police brought her to the anti-corruption court from a military hospital.

    She was admitted days before the court served the arrest warrant against her on plunder charges early this month and ordered her confined under guard.

    If found guilty, they could face a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

    Arroyo's lawyers say the witnesses against her had no personal knowledge of the transactions of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

    Arroyo's contention

    Arroyo said that she was wrongly prosecuted for crimes she did not commit, denying any involvement in the alleged misuse of funds of the PCSO during her presidency.

    Her lawyers have appealed to the supreme court to have the case dismissed.

    Arroyo finished her tumultuous nine-year term in 2010.

    Since then, she has been separately charged with vote fraud and in another corruption case, but posted bail. She had already spent eight months under hospital arrest before she was discharged in June.

    Arroyo has accused her successor, Benigno Aquino III, of pursuing a political vendetta.

    Al Jazeera's Jamela Alindogan, reporting from outside the court in Manila, said:  "Arroyo is seen as the most unpopular president in current history. Her successor Benigno Aquino III has vowed to make her face justice."

    Aquino was overwhelmingly elected on a promise to rid the Philippines of corruption and has pledged to prosecute Arroyo and her inner circle, blaming them for stealing money for personal gain and for a culture of impunity in which corrupt practices flourished.

    The government has already denied Arroyo's request to seek medical treatment abroad, saying she may not return to face the charges.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera And Agencies


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