Arroyo arrested for electoral sabotage
MANILA, Nov. 18 – In a dramatic confluence of events, ailing former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was ordered arrested by a regional court here for electoral sabotage charges.
No bail is allowed in electoral sabotage. The punishment, if convicted, is life imprisonment.
Police served the warrant of arrest issued by presiding judge Jesus Mupas of the Pasay Regional Trial Court Branch 112 on Arroyo at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in suburban Taguig City where the former president is presently confined after undergoing neck surgery.
Police Superintendent Dennis Bucayo said the former president calmly accepted the warrant of arrest.
The government said Ms. Arroyo who was elected congresswoman in the 2010 election will be given courtesy as former president.
The charges were filed by the Department of Justice a few hours before Arroyo and her husband Miguel were to board a plane for Singapore where the former president would seek further medical attention of her bone ailment.
On Wednesday the Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) stopping the justice department from barring the former chief executive from going abroad to seek medical treatment.
The TRO was to take immediately but Justice Secretary Leila de Lima filed a petition for reconsideration which the high court also rejected in an en banc hearing today and ordered de Lima why she should not be cited for contempt for ignoring the court’s order.
Earlier, the former first couple was to fly to Singapore on Nov. 15 but they were stopped by authorities from boarding their plane at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on orders of Delima.
Ms. Arroyo was on a wheel chair and was wearing a brace on her neck and a mask on nose and mouth when she arrived at the airport to check in.
Apart from Arroyo, separate warrants of arrests were issued against former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr., former Commission on Elections (COMELEC) chair Benjamin Abalos and election supervisor Lintang Bedol.
With the arrest warrant, Ms. Arroyo cannot leave the country, de Lima said during a press conference.
"Mrs. Arroyo is compelled to stay in the country, and face the charges of electoral sabotage filed against her, bringing us closer to uncovering the truth behind the controversies surrounding the 2007 elections," she said.
"Rest assured that throughout the judicial process, the government will exercise fairness and impartiality, and will uphold every right that Mrs. Arroyo, as an accused, is entitled to under the constitution," she added.
"COMELEC en banc has signed a resolution calling for the filing of a case for electoral sabotage against former president GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo)," James Jimenez, COMELEC spokesman said. The COMELEC commissioners voted 5-2. Two other commissioners abstained.
Under Republic Act No. 6646, electoral sabotage constitutes altering of votes during an election, tampering numbers on "large scale or in substantial numbers."