Grace Ibuna gets victory in UK court

By Rose Eclarinal, Europe News Bureau

Posted at Feb 21 2012 07:48 AM | Updated as of Feb 21 2012 09:41 PM

LONDON - The tug-of-war in London on who has the right to repatriate and dispose  the body of Congressman Iggy Arroyo  to the Philippines ended yesterday afternoon  when Justice Peter Smith of the UK High Court ruled  in favor of Grace Ibuna and Arroyo’s second daughter Bernardina Arroyo-Tantoco. 

Justice Smith granted  the two  a joint letter of administration allowing them to repatriate the late congressman’s remains in accordance with his wishes.

Earlier,  Aleli Arroyo, the estranged wife of Iggy  with her lawyer Atty. Lorna  Kapunan,  went to London to claim the body of the late congressman. But Ibuna, Iggy’s live-in partner stopped it via the High Court's 7-day, emergency injunction to prevent Arroyo’s body being removed from the funeral parlor JH Kenyon. 

In Monday's hearing at Court 31 Royal Courts of Justice,  Justice Smith asked  an expert in the Philippine jurisprudence to determine the validity of Arroyo’s  will in  the Philippines.

Arroyo’s will was drafted in the US and he named his second daughter Arroyo-Tantoco to be the executor of the will. The will has two aspects: the disposition of Arroyo’s assets and remains.

Dean Ed Vincent Albano who was in Quezon City,   stated under oath, via a video link that the last will which was drafted in the US is sanctioned by the Philippine law under Section  307 of the Civil Code.

His daughter Dina who was also in  Quezon City faced the court via a video link. She confirmed that she is indeed the executor of  her father’s last will.

She also testified that  her father named her and Grace Ibuna in the late congressman’s medical directive, allowing her or Ibuna  to decide on his behalf should he fail to decide for himself, particularly related to his health and  the disposition of his body

It was made clear in the court that the first defendant, Aleli Arroyo was not named in any of the following binding evidence presented by Ibuna and the Arroyo sisters: declaration of trust, special power of attorney, health care directive and last will of Iggy Arrroyo. 

Arroyo-Tantoco, as the executor of the will and "alternate agent" in the medical directive,  was also queried by Justice Smith if would allow Ibuna to dispose the body of her father. To which she replied "yes."

In closing, Justice Smith asked Arroyo-Tantoco ‘how was the baby’ which elicited laughter in the courtroom.  Iggy’s daughter could not fly to the UK and appear before the UK court  because she  recently gave birth.

Bianca Arroyo and Grace Ibuna were also both summoned in the court for cross examination.

Asked  what awaits her in the Philippine courts, taking into consideration Aleli’s urgent petition for the custody of her husband’s body, Ibuna replied: "I don't know my Lord. I just want a dignified burial for my partner."

Aleli Arroyo sought a TRO and injunctions against Ibuna and several others. She claimed  that under the Philippine law Arroyo’s body should go to her.

After almost four hours hearing the case, Justice Smith ruled in favor of Grace Ibuna and Bernardina Arroyo-Tantoco.

Eileen Barry of TWM Solicitors read the message of her clients outside the Rolls Building, Royal Courts of Justice:

"My clients Grace Ibuna and Bernardina Arroyo- Tantoco are very relieved that a decision has been made by the justice Peter Smith today granting them joint letter of administration to allow them to take the body of congressman Ignacio Tuason Arroyo home to the Philippines to be buried according to his wishes. It’s been a very painful and distressing time for the family and Grace and Bernardina are very thankful that’s they can now proceed to make the arrangement to bury their partner and their  father  ina dignified and respectful way and to allow everyone in the Philippines to have a chance to pay their last respects at long last to the congressman so that he can finally be laid to rest. That’s all the family would like to say for the moment and id ask you to respect their grieving."

"I just thank God my prayers were answered and thank our legal team who has done a great job, and we will see everyone home soon," Ibuna said, in a brief statement issued to the media.

Eillen Barry of TWM Solicitors and Grace Ibuna outside the Rolls building after the decision was granted in favour of Ibuna and Bernardina Arroyo-Tantoco