POSTED: 10:12 a.m. HST, Nov 8, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 10:17 a.m. HST, Nov 8, 2011
MANILA, Philippines >> The Philippine justice secretary on Tuesday barred former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from seeking medical treatment abroad while she faces complaints of electoral cheating.
Two complaints of electoral sabotage have been filed against Arroyo and her husband alleging they rigged congressional polls in 2007 by tampering with results.
While prosecutors decide whether to file formal charges, the 64-year-old former president sought permission to get treatment abroad after undergoing three surgeries on her cervical spine.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that Arroyo’s condition was not life threatening and that “she has been recuperating fairly well ... with treatment from local doctors and local facilities.”
The Arroyos questioned the legality of the decision before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, saying they have not been proven guilty and their rights were violated.
Arroyo stepped down last year and was then elected to Congress. Her aides deny the allegations against her and accuse her successor, President Benigno Aquino III, of political persecution.
The government frequently bars suspects in high-profile cases from traveling because it says they are flight risks. But the decisions are often political — when Arroyo was in office, she allowed ousted President Joseph Estrada to have knee surgery in Hong Kong despite being on trial for corruption. Imelda Marcos, the widow of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, was permitted to travel abroad while answering charges of misuse of funds.
In an interview in Tuesday’s Manila Standard Today newspaper, Arroyo said she was told by doctors she was suffering from “an extremely rare bone disease,” was swallowing 15 tablets a day, had lost weight and needed further tests abroad.
“I feel like any human being would feel not knowing the illness,” she said.
During her nine years in office, Arroyo survived several coup attempts by disgruntled soldiers as well as impeachment proceedings initiated by the opposition, who accused her of corruption, election fraud and human rights abuses.
She came to power in 2001 as Estrada’s separately elected vice president after he was ousted in a military-backed uprising.
Her successor, a former senator and one of Arroyo’s staunchest critics, has made the prosecution of corrupt officials a cornerstone of his administration. Aquino has vowed to bring Arroyo to justice, accusing her of promoting a decade of corruption and impunity in the country.
Separately, Arroyo’s husband, lawyer Jose Miguel Arroyo, is facing a complaint of passing off two helicopters he allegedly owned as new and selling them to the national police in 2009.
The couple’s son and his wife also were charged with tax evasion, which they deny.