MANILA – Former President and Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is now a “patient-detainee” at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City after being served a warrant for her arrest on plunder charges.
Senior Superintendent Jigs Coronel, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region (CIDG-NCR), personally delivered the arrest warrant issued by the Sandiganbayan to Mrs. Arroyo at the VMMC presidential suite.
Female police officers from the police crime laboratory accompanied Coronel in serving the warrant as well as booking Mrs. Arroyo for the plunder case, according to Quezon City police chief Mario dela Vega.
The Sandiganbayan on Wednesday issued the arrest warrant for Mrs. Arroyo and 9 others on the plunder case involving the alleged misuse of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.
Arroyo’s lawyers asked the court to defer the arrest order but the motion was denied.
Aside from Arroyo, the others included in the arrest order are former PCSO chairman Sergio Valencia, former PCSO vice chairman and general manager Rosario Uriarte, members of the PCSO board of directors Manuel Morato, Jose Taruc V, Raymundo Roquero, and Ma. Fatima Valdes, former PCSO budgets and accounts manager Benigno Aguas, former Commission on Audit chairman Reynaldo Villar, and former head of COA's intelligence/confidential fund audit unit Nilda Plaras.
The 65-year-old Arroyo, who was president from 2001 to 2010, is unlikely to escape detention this time around as the charge under the Plunder Law is a non-bailable offense. Plunder carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
The arrest warrant was issued after the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed Arroyo's petition to junk the non-bailable case against her. Arroyo is currently out on bail for a separate charge of electoral sabotage.
GMA hospitalized before arrest
VMMC Director Nona Legaspi earlier said Mrs. Arroyo was admitted to the hospital before 7 a.m. Thursday. This was after the ant-graft court Sandiganbayan issued an arrest warrant for her and 9 others for the plunder case.
Arroyo regularly comes to the hospital for her therapy but this morning, she complained of numbness in her hands.
Attending physician Dr. Martha Nocum said the former President showed signs of dehydration and had to be administered with IV fluids.
Legaspi said doctors saw the need for her to be admitted at the hospital. The director said it will be up to Arroyo’s attending physician when she can be discharged.
Palace respects arrest order
The Palace, meanwhile, said it respects the reported decision of the Sandiganbayan to order the arrest of former President Arroyo in connection with the alleged misuse of PCSO funds.
“It’s a decision rendered by the Sandiganbayan, we respect whatever decision they issued. It just shows that the government through the PCSO has presented a case which has probable cause. And so, we leave it with the Ombudsman to prosecute the case. They themselves have found a prima facie case against on the former President and the officials of the PCSO,” Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.
The Palace expects that case to be tried “free from politics.”
“I think, when it comes to the case before the Sandiganbayan, it will be litigated based on the evidence that the government would be presenting through the PCSO. So, I think, it should be free from politics and should be solely based on the evidence that will be submitted." With reports from Willard Cheng , Gretchen Malalad, Atom Araullo and Zen Hernandez, ABS-CBN News; Reuters and radio dzMM