Philippines detains ex-president Arroyo on plunder charges

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 October, 2012, 12:28pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 04 October, 2012, 7:55pm

Former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was detained on Thursday on charges of plunder, a crime that carries a maximum penalty of life in jail, in one of a series of corruption cases brought against her.

Less than three months after she was released on bail following about eight months in detention on charges of election fraud, the latest charge against the ailing Arroyo involves the more serious offence of misusing state lottery funds.

“When we arrived at the hospital, she was lying on the bed with an IV attached to her,” Senior Superintendent Joel Coronel, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, told reporters. Arroyo, who suffers from a spine condition, was being treated for dehydration.

Coronel said Arroyo, 65, was “very co-operative” when police took her fingerprints and photos.

The Ombudsman’s office alleges that Arroyo and her co-accused of unlawfully acquiring and accumulating public funds amounting to 366 million pesos (US$8.8 million) by diverting lottery funds for personal gain.

Another former Philippine president Joseph Estrada was pursued by the Arroyo administration under the same Plunder Law. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison, but was pardoned a short time later.

Coronel said Arroyo would remain under confinement at the army hospital where she was held earlier this year.

Arroyo, president from 2001 to 2010, is unlikely to escape detention this time around as the charge under the Plunder Law is a non-bailable offence.

Arroyo also faces allegations of graft over an aborted US$329 million national broadband deal with China’s ZTE Corp in 2007. She denies all charges and posted bail on both cases.

President Benigno Aquino’s pursuit of charges against Arroyo and the Philippines’ success in kicking out her allies – the Ombudsman and the Supreme Court chief justice – all within a span of about a year have been cheered by investors as clear signs that the government is serious in its anti-graft agenda.

Arroyo was stopped last year by government agents at Manila’s main international airport as she was on her way to board a plane for overseas treatment.