Arroyo seeks to be moved home as health improves

By Teresa Cerojano ,AP

MANILA, Philippines — Former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who tried to leave the country on medical grounds while election fraud charges were being prepared against her, is well enough to leave the hospital where she was arrested, she and her doctors agree. Arroyo lawyer Jose Flaminiano told a court Friday he was withdrawing his motion for a hospital arrest in favor of house arrest. Earlier, he had resisted efforts to have doctors testify about Arroyo’s condition. Arroyo is “fit to be released as outpatient,” her physician Dr. Mario Ver testified Friday. The Commission on Elections, an independent body that filed the charges, has asked the court to order Arroyo’s transfer to a government jail cell. Arroyo has had three surgeries on her cervical spine, and she argued before her arrest that she needed to travel abroad for an urgent bone treatment that she claimed was unavailable in the Philippines. The government refused to let her go this month, even after the Supreme Court ruled in her favor.

President Benigno Aquino III, Arroyo’s successor, refused to comment, saying he did not want to be seen as trying to influence the court’s decision on the petition for house arrest. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Friday that house arrest might be seen by the public as special treatment for Arroyo.

Arroyo’s son, House Rep. Dato Arroyo, in a statement to reporters called for fair treatment for his mother. He said she has no plans to seek political asylum abroad and should be presumed innocent until proven guilty. He decried what he said were the “nonstop vilification of my mother” and “the never-ending cases” being filed against her.

Judge Jesus Mupas of the Pasay Regional Trial Court gave the commission and Arroyo until Tuesday to submit their motions and comments. In the meantime, clerk of court Joel Pelicano told reporters that Arroyo would remain at St. Luke’s hospital. Arroyo, who left office last year, is charged with ordering the rigging of 2007 congressional polls, which she denies.

The judge earlier ordered Arroyo’s doctors at Manila’s St. Luke’s Medical Center to testify about her condition. Flaminiano objected, citing doctor-patient confidentiality and the fact she was no longer seeking a hospital stay, which the court had previously approved.