Former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo arrested over graft

Former president distraught after being arrested at military hospital where she is being treated for long-term spinal illness

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 October, 2012, 4:29am


A "distraught" ex-Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was arrested at hospital after being charged over a third case of alleged corruption during her time in power.

An anti-graft court ordered her arrest after Arroyo was charged with plunder for allegedly stealing 366 million pesos (HK$68 million) in state lottery 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 for treatment for a long-term spinal illness yesterday.

"Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is now under the custody and detention of the Philippine National Police," Senior Superintendent Napoleon Coronel said outside the hospital shortly after she was arrested.

He said Arroyo was co-operative with the arresting officers.

"When we arrived at the hospital she was lying on the bed with an IV attached to her," Coronel said.

Coronel said police would await a court order on whether she should remain detained at the hospital, in a regular jail or in another government facility.

The ex-president, who wears a neck brace because of a bone disease, checked into the hospital after she showed signs of dehydration, according to reports.

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 said, 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.

Arroyo ended her near-decade in power in 2010 as one of the country's most unpopular presidents, amid allegations she had cheated to win elections, embraced feared warlords as allies and was involved in widespread corruption.

Rival Benigno Aquino won a landslide election victory in 2010, largely on a vow to fight corruption and prosecute Arroyo.

Arroyo was charged in November last year with vote fraud for allegedly conspiring to rig the 2007 senatorial elections. She spent most of the next eight months in detention at the same military hospital where she was arrested yesterday. She won bail in July, with a court saying the case against her was weak.

In December last year, Arroyo was also charged with corruption for approving an allegedly graft-tainted contract with a Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE Corp to set up a national government broadband system.

Arroyo has pleaded not guilty to both those charges.

Trials for those cases have begun, but could go on for years.

Arroyo is also a congresswoman, after winning a seat in parliament representing her political stronghold in 2010. She had registered on Wednesday to run again for parliament in next year's elections.

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.

Additional reporting by Reuters, Associated Press