Philippines’ Arroyo faces poll fraud | Live Update News

Philippines’ Arroyo faces poll fraud | Live Update News

The Philippine Election Commission has approved election fraud charges against the former president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in a move that could pave the way for her arrest.

The formal charges – the first criminal case against Arroyo – could be filed in court later on Friday, Sixto Brillantes, the poll panel’s chairman, said on Friday.

Once the charges are filed, the court will decide whether to issue a warrant of arrest, he said.

Brillantes also said he will ask for a court order barring Arroyo’s travel.

Al Jazeera’s Marga Ortigas, reporting from Manila, said that the court session was “special, and convened to decide on Arroyo’s case.

She also said that “the story can change at any hour”.

Arroyo tried to leave the country with her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, on Tuesday, saying she was seeking medical treatment abroad for a bone ailment, but was stopped at the Manila airport because she was still under investigation.

She has denied any wrongdoing.

Arroyo, 64, ruled the Philippines for more than nine years until last year, when she won a seat in the lower house of parliament.

Awaiting decision

Raul Lambino, Arroyo’s lawyer, said his client will await a decision by the supreme court on Friday on their petition questioning the government’s travel ban.

The same court ordered on Tuesday the administration to allow Arroyo to travel overseas for treatment.

It ruled the government’s travel ban unconstitutional because Arroyo and her husband had not yet been charged with any crime.

But the government defied the court and she was prevented from boarding her flight to Singapore on Tuesday. Arroyo then checked into a hospital in Manila.

She had been driven to the airport in an ambulance, wearing a neck brace to support her spine, which she says is weakened by a rare bone disease.

The confrontation prompted supreme court threats to throw government officials in jail for contempt for refusing to allow Arroyo to fly.

About 100 protesters from a small leftist party gathered outside the supreme court in Manila on Friday, disrupting traffic as they demanded that the court and government stop Arroyo from leaving, an AFP photographer reported.

“Don’t let Gloria flee,” one of their placards read. “Make her pay,” read another.

Al Jazeera’s Ortigas said the protesters made it clear that if Arroyo still attempted to leave the country to Singapore, they would descend upon the airport and form a human chain to prevent her from leaving.

Government’s defiance

Midas Marquez, a spokesman for the supreme court, said the bench was also expected to address the issue of the government’s defiance at Friday’s hearing.

For her part, Leila de Lima, the Philippine justice secretary, insisted the government was not violating any law and that Arroyo must be stopped from fleeing possible prosecution.

State prosecutors were evaluating evidence in several complaints of large-scale corruption as well as election fraud against the Arroyo couple, de Lima said.

Arroyo said through a spokeswoman that she may attempt to leave the Philippines again on Friday.

“If the doctors allow it, it’s an option,” Elena Bautista Horn Horn told GMA television.

“We will hold them [the government] responsible if something bad happens to my boss.”

Horn also expressed fear that the government will rush the filing of criminal charges against Arroyo in court to justify its bid to have the supreme court uphold the travel ban.

Benigno Aquino, the current Philippine president, won a landslide presidential election on an anti-corruption platform and has pledged to bring Arroyo to justice, but has faced repeated setbacks to his campaign.

In one of the most prominent blows, the supreme court ruled in December last year that a “truth commission” that Aquino set up specifically to investigate Arroyo was unconstitutional.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies

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