MANILA, Philippines – A warrant of arrest has been issued and served against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, following the filing of electoral sabotage charges against the former president by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
Authorities served the warrant of arrest against the former president at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City where she is currently confined. The reading of her rights was waived by her lawyers.
Her husband, Jose Miguel, counsels, and some of her Cabinet members, when the warrant was served. Police said Arroyo was awake, in her neck brace and nodding, but she did not speak. All other procedures for her arrest, such as her booking, will be carried out on Saturday, November 19, in deference to her medical condition.
Hospital arrest for the meantime
DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima said Arroyo could stay for the meantime at the hospital under police custody. But she said that it would be the court that would ultimately decide on whether Arroyo should be placed under hospital arrest.
“In the meantime, for as long as she stays in the hospital, babantayan lang po siya doon at hindi naman po natin siya pipilitin na dalhin sa isang detention facility,” said the DOJ chief Friday night after the issuance of the warrant.
Earlier, De Lima said the debates and legal proceedings pertaining to Arroyo’s right to travel had been rendered “moot and academic”. Now that a warrant of arrest has been issued, De Lima said Arroyo “is compelled” to stay in the country.
Supreme Court spokesperson Jose Midas Marquez said that with the issuance of the warrant the former president “is now barred” from leaving the country.
Marquez made a clear distinction between the electoral fraud case for which the arrest warrant was issued, and the Constitional challenge to the “watch list order” against Arroyo for which a temporary restraining order was issued by the Supreme Court.
The TRO issue continues, he said, and therefore still is relevant to the matter of whether or not Ms. Arroyo’s husband, Mike Arroyo, can travel. But with respect to the former President, Marquez said, the arrest warrant holds primacy.
The Pasay court also issued arrest warrants against former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and former Maguindanao election officer Lintang Bedol for also allagedly committing the offense of electoral sabotage, a non-bailable offense. The case stemmed from the alleged rigging of the 2007 poll results in Maguindanao where senatorial candidates of the Arroyo administration’s Team Unity won in a 12-0 sweep.
Speaking from Singapore, former President Joseph Estrada – who was deposed in an uprising that directly led to Arroyo’s contentious and rocky nine-year term as president, and who himself was prosecuted for corruption under the Arroyo administration – said: “Hindi natutulog ang Diyos”. (God does not rest.)
An urgent omnibus motion for reconsideration to lift the arrest warrant was filed by the Arroyo camp on behalf of the former chief exective. The court received the motion at 4:25 p.m. but Mupas had already left his office, radio dzMM reported.
Arroyo’s motion filed through her counsel, Jose Flaminiano, argued that the Sandiganbayan and not the Pasay court should have jusrisdiction over the case because Arroyo is a former president and currently a representative of Pampanga. The motion also argued that Arroyo was denied due process.
Under Republic Act 9369, which amended Article 286 of the Omnibus Election Code, regional trial courts are vested exclusive and original jurisdiction over cases involving electoral sabotage.
The former president’s son, Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo, was the first one from the camp of the former chief executive who received information about the arrest of his mother.
Treat her with respect
President Benigno Aquino III reiterated on Friday that his predecessor should be “treated with utmost respect” notwithstanding the issuance of an arrest warrant against Arroyo.
Arroyo and Jose Miguel were supposed to take a 5:10 flight to Singapore for the former president’s medical appointment at the Mountain Elizabeth Hospital. But the couple cancelled their flight after the court issued the warrant.
The administration will “accord right treatment to former president,” Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo said Friday.
“We’ve notified the family and we will accord due respect to theformer president because she is sick,” Robredo said.
“The administration will accord the right treatment to a former president because she’s not well,” he added.
Arroyo’s lawyers had earlier warned that any speedy issuance of a hold order on the former president stemming from the electoral fraud charges would be suspicious, and reek of a political “script”.
De Lima insisted, however, that there was “nothing unusual” about the Pasay court’s issuance of the warrant on the same day of the filing of information against Arroyo.
“It’s common. It happens,” the justice secretary said in a press conference. What it simply means is that the judge believes there is probable cause to issue a warrant,” said the DOJ chief.
Victory for justice
Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III welcomed the issuance of the warrant against Arroyo. He said the move was a “victory for justice and public accountability.”
“We welcome this latest development. The Supreme Court TRO for all intent and purposes becomes ineffectual because of the latest turn of events. This is clearly a victory for justice and public accountability,” Pimentel said.
However, he said “it is ironic that it had to take a lower court rather than the Supreme Court to ensure that the pursuit of justice and public accountability would not be frustrated.”
“Gloria Arroyo should face the music. This is not persecution. This is not a mockery of justice. This is a former President being held to account for her alleged involvement in electoral sabotage. In Taiwan, in South Korea, former presidents have been jailed and held to account for their acts,” he said.
“Regardless of our status in society, no one is above the law—not even a former president,” Pimentel added.
Meanwhile, the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan said that, “The long-awaited day of seeing…Arroyo arrested, mug-shot taken, and placed behind bars is now at hand.”
“After more than 500 days in office, the Aquino government finally has a criminal case filed against GMA. Today’s events show that it is indeed possible to hasten the filing of cases against the former president,” Bayan said.
“We hope electoral sabotage will not be the first and last case filed against GMA. Cases of plunder and human rights violations should also follow suit. We urge the public to remain vigilant since the Arroyo camp will not cease its maneuverings to evade justice,” it added. with reports from Abigail Kwok, Joseph Holandes Ubalde, Lorenz Neil Santos, and Karl John C. Reyes