Philippine court issues arrest warrant for former President Arroyo

Friday, November 18, 2011

Arroyo in 2009
Image: World Economic Forum.

A Philippine regional court has issued an arrest warrant for former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, on charges of election fraud. This came hours after the Philippine Supreme Court found — for the second time this week — that the government could not prohibit her from leaving the country, because no charges had been filed against her.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court temporarily suspended a government ban on Arroyo's leaving the country. Arroyo claims to suffer from a rare bone disease, and arrived by ambulance at the Manila airport, with neck brace and wheelchair, to go abroad for treatment. She was denied exit by officials at the airport.

The Supreme Court's ruling on Friday gave Justice Secretary Leila de Lima ten days to explain why she is not in contempt of court for ordering airport officials to deny Arroyo's exit on Tuesday. If found in contempt of court, she could be subject to a jail term of six to ten months. De Lima maintains the government's actions were legal.

Current President Benigno Aquino was elected last year promising to prosecute his predecessor, Arroyo. When Arroyo became president in 2001, she prosecuted her predecessor for corruption; after six years of luxurious house arrest, Joseph Estrada was convicted and given a life prison sentence, from which Arroyo promptly pardoned him. Aquino has said he would not pardon Arroyo.

Arroyo's father was once President, as was Aquino's mother. Arroyo is now a member of Congress, along with her two sons and a brother-in-law. The Supreme Court is dominated by members appointed by Arroyo.

Last year, Aquino set up a commission to investigate Arroyo, but the commission was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The current charges against Arroyo are for fraud in the Senate elections of 2007.