Arroyo arrested for plunder-A A +A
By Max Sangil
Thursday, October 4, 2012
MANILA (2nd Update, 6:22 p.m.) -- The Philippine National Police on Thursday served an arrest warrant on former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for a charge of plunder.
Senior Superintendent Joel Coronel, PNP Criminal Investigation Group-National Capital Region chief, said they served the warrant on Arroyo at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon around 4 p.m.
The Pampanga representative was admitted Thursday morning at the VMMC after complaining of numbness of her hands. She returned to the VMMC, prior to the service of the arrest order, for a regular therapy for a neck injury.
Her attending doctors say she is suffering from dehydration and had to be confined.
The warrant was issued Wednesday by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan over the alleged misuse of P365 million in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office funds during her presidency.
Arroyo had been previously put under arrest at the VMMC a few months on a charge of electoral sabotage but jumped bail.
Coronel said Arroyo was with her lawyer, Anacleto Diaz, and her spokesperson, Elena Bautista Horn, during the service of the warrant. He said Arroyo underwent medical check-up, and other standard procedures like finger-printing, upon the service of the warrant.
Coronel said that based on the initial medical examination conducted, Arroyo was found to be suffering from hypertension. He said the doctors told them that transferring Arroyo "is not feasible as of this time."
He said Arroyo will be confined at the VMMC at least for the rest of the day and will be guarded by the Police Security and Protection Group. He said it will be up to the Sandiganbayan if Arroyo will be confined in a regular jail.
"Right now, the former president-congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is under arrest and detention and now under the custody of the Philippine National Police. She is presently confined at the presidential suite of the VMMC," said Coronel.
"She will remain in confinement, undergoing medical treatment. We are going to return the warrant of arrest tomorrow to the 1st Division of Sandigan(bayan), informing them that she is confined and we leave it up to the discretion of the court whether to order for her transfer (in) confinement and detention," added Coronel.
"We leave it up to Sandigan. It is up to the 1st Division of the Sandigan whether they will decide on the place of the former president. It will depend on the discretion of the Sandiganbayan if she will be transferred to a regular jail or another government facility," he said.
Coronel said manhunt operations are ongoing against several fellow accused of Arroyo in the case, most PCSO officials during the Arroyo administration. He revealed that some of the accused have sent feelers to surrender.
Arroyo's fellow accused in the plunder case are former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte; former PCSO board chairperson Sergio Valencia; former PCSO board members Manuel Morato, Jose Taruc, Raymundo Roquero and Ma. Fatima Valdes; and former PCSO budget officer Benigno Aguas. Former Commission on Audit (COA) chairperson Reynaldo Villar and former COA intelligence officer Milda Plara were also named in the charge sheet.
Meantime, Malacañang said Thursday that it respects the decision of the Sandiganbayan to issue warrant of arrest against Arroyo and her co-accused in the PCSO fund mess.
"It's a decision rendered by the Sandiganbayan, we respect whatever decision they issued," presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said.
The arrest orders for Arroyo and nine others were signed by Sandiganbayan First Division chairman Efren de la Cruz.
Lacierda said the issuance of the arrest warrant shows "that the government through the PCSO has presented a case, which has probable cause."
"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," he added.
He said the Palace expects that the case be tried free from politics considering that Arroyo is seeking reelection in Pampanga.
"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," he said.
Lacierda, on the other hand, refused to speculate on the condition of Arroyo, if she could bear the exhaustion from every day campaigning. (VR/Jill Beltran/Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)