Arroyo may not receive fair trial, says lawyer
MANILA FORMER Philippine president Gloria Arroyo is being “persecuted” and will not receive a fair trial after she was arrested for allegedly rigging elections, a lawyer for her family said on Sunday.
Ferdinand Topacio dismissed assurances from President Benigno Aquino that the ailing Arroyo will be treated fairly, saying the government was determined to victimise the ex-president.
“There is a pall of gloom about her because of what has happened. She is being persecuted and it is taking a toll on (her) health,” Topacio told ABS-CBN television.
Topacio said the case against Arroyo was “railroaded” and the former president’s rights were being violated.
“They will now pull all stops to prevent our client from getting a fair trial,” he said.
Arroyo, who is confined to a suburban hospital with a rare bone disease, has lost her appetite and is suffering an intestinal infection, he said, adding: “Her condition is not improving at all.” Arroyo was arrested in her hospital bed on Friday on non-bailable charges of tampering with senatorial elections in 2007 to help a political ally. If convicted, she could face life in jail.
The former president sought to travel abroad last week for medical treatment but the Aquino government blocked her departure, saying she might flee charges of vote fraud and corruption.
The Supreme Court had ruled on Tuesday that Arroyo could leave the country for treatment but government personnel blocked the wheelchair- bound former leader at the airport.
Justice department and election officials then speedily prepared the criminal charge which was used to keep her from travelling. Other corruption charges against her are being prepared but have not yet been filed in court.
Aquino, who returned from an international summit in Indonesia late on Saturday, hailed the arrest, saying it was just the first step in a wider campaign against corruption.
“This is just the start of the process,” Aquino said. “No one should be spared in the search for the truth and in punishing the guilty.” Another Arroyo lawyer, Raul Lambino, reiterated that motions would be filed with the Supreme Court and other tribunals questioning the legality of Arroyo’s arrest.
Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez said the court could still rule that procedures used to charge Arroyo were unconstitutional, nullifying her arrest.
“If that (charge) is adjudged as unconstitutional then of course all the proceedings..would have to be nullified, but again we have to wait for the decision of the court,” he said.
Arroyo, who was in office from 2001 to 2010, was repeatedly accused of vote fraud and massive corruption but efforts to charge her were blocked.