MANILA (BNO NEWS) — Former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was arrested at a Manila hospital on Friday on charges of electoral fraud, preventing her departure from the country to seek medical treatment.
Incumbent President Benigno Aquino and his government have long accused Arroyo of corruption during her two terms in office, from 2001 until 2010. However, authorities had not formally charged her until Friday because prosecutors said they wanted to make sure the evidence is strong enough.
“Today, the Pasay Regional Trial Court branch 112 issued a warrant of arrest for Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, after reviewing the electoral sabotage case filed by the COMELEC (Commission on Elections),” said Secretary of Justice Leila de Lima. “Thus, Mrs. Arroyo is compelled to stay in the country, and face the charges of electoral sabotage filed against her, bringing us closer to uncovering the truth behind the controversies surrounding the 2007 elections.”
Senior Superintendent Franklin Bucayu, head of the Southern Police District, told a news briefing outside St Luke’s Hospital that Arroyo is now in police custody. “The arrest warrant has been served. We tried to read her rights but her lawyers waived it because of her conditions. She smiled at us and she was expecting it,” Bucayu said.
The arrest comes just days after the Supreme Court issued an order which allowed Arroyo to leave the country to seek medical treatment for a rare bone disease. It allowed her to travel to at least five countries where the Philippines has no extradition treaty, meaning Arroyo could have found refuge there to escape charges in the Philippines.
But the Philippine government refused to comply with the court order and instructed immigration officials to stop Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo from boarding a flight to Singapore. Officials said the fact that Arroyo went straight to the airport following the court decision only heightened the government’s suspicion that they intended to evade charges.
“Rest assured that throughout the judicial process, the government will exercise fairness and impartiality, and will uphold every right that Mrs. Arroyo, as an accused, is entitled to under the constitution,” de Lima said. “For a legal proceeding that has great implications, not just to the integrity of our electoral system, but also to the very principles of our nation’s democracy, it is our desire that truth and accountability prevail, and that the Filipino people are finally given the justice they truly deserve.”
Arroyo served as the 14th President of the Philippines from January 2001 until June 2010. She is currently serving as a Member of the Philippine House of Representatives from Pampanga’s 2nd district.