POSTED: 07:16 a.m. HST, Nov 19, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 12:34 p.m. HST, Nov 19, 2011
MANILA, Philippines >> Police fingerprinted and photographed former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on her hospital bed Saturday over electoral fraud charges her lawyer says were brought with “indecent haste.”
But President Benigno Aquino III said after arriving home from the East Asia Summit in Indonesia that Arroyo will have a chance to defend herself in court, as is the right of every Filipino, no matter his or her status.
Arroyo wore a hospital gown and neck brace while sitting on her bed as the police photographer snapped pictures and a technician held her name plate, Police Senior Supt. Joel Coronel said earlier Saturday. He supervised the activity, and members of Arroyo’s family, her friends, lawyers and doctors were around.
A police medical officer said Arroyo appeared to have lost weight, was slightly dehydrated and had an elevated blood pressure of 140/100. Her doctor, Juliet Cervantes, said she has lost her appetite and was being hydrated with IV fluid.
Arroyo, 64, is the second ex-Philippine president to face trial. She denies wrongdoing and says she is being prevented from getting medical treatment overseas for a bone ailment. She has been in the hospital since her failed attempt to leave the country Tuesday.
Her successor, Aquino, said in his speech late Saturday that Arroyo will go through a fair process only focused on finding the truth and holding those who have done wrong accountable.
“This is a result of the reforms we have put in place to fight corruption,” he said. “The guiding principle behind these reforms: The guilty should be made accountable, because if not it is like keeping the door open for those who still wish to abuse the people.”
He urged Filipinos to remain firm in their conviction, and together create a new country where there is fair play and “where justice reigns.”
Police served an arrest warrant in Arroyo’s 16th-floor hospital suite late Friday, capping a day of legal drama in which the Supreme Court upheld her right to travel but a lower court accepted the formal charges against her. The government rushed the case in court, saying Arroyo may be trying to evade justice.
“For the meantime the (former) president will remain under guard and detention here at St. Luke’s Medical Center,” Coronel said. He said it will be up to the court to determine if she will remain confined in the hospital or transferred to another detention facility.
Arroyo lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said he will petition the Supreme Court on Monday to suspend the arrest warrant and other legal effects of the preliminary investigation jointly conducted by the Commission on Elections and the Department of Justice.
Her lawyers already filed motions before the Supreme Court questioning the legality of the joint investigating committee and the jurisdiction of the court that issued the warrant.
Topacio has said the government filed the charges with “indecent haste” and the quickness of the arrest was a “minor miracle” in the Philippine judicial system.
He appealed to media not to use Arroyo’s mugshots, which have not been released by police.
Aquino was overwhelmingly elected last year on promises to rid the Philippines of corruption and has said he wants to start with Arroyo.
The election fraud charges carry a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison and stem from allegations Arroyo conspired to tamper with results of 2007 congressional polls to favor her candidates.
She was accused of having direct knowledge of massive cheating in an autonomous Muslim region in the southern Philippines, the country’s poorest and notoriously corrupt region.
A probe this year by the Senate Electoral Tribunal found that an Arroyo ally, who later resigned, benefited from fake ballots. An election supervisor and a former governor of the Muslim region have alleged that Arroyo and her husband ordered election rigging.
During her tumultuous nine-year presidency from 2001 to 2010, Arroyo ranked as the country’s least popular leader and faced down several coup and impeachment attempts over corruption allegations.
Her most serious crisis came a year after she was elected in 2004, when a wiretapped recording surfaced of her talking to an election official allegedly about securing a vote margin for herself. She later apologized but said she did nothing wrong.
After stepping down last year, Arroyo was elected to the House of Representatives and immediately faced at least half a dozen legal complaints, including allegations that she diverted state funds for her campaign effort and benefited from foreign contracts.
The Justice Department is still investigating the other complaints.
Associated Press writer Hrvoje Hranjski contributed to this report.