The husband of former Philippine President Gloria Arroyo asked the Supreme Court to stop her prosecution on charges of electoral fraud, potentially setting up the latest legal standoff with the government.
The case against Arroyo should be nullified because the creation of the government panel that investigated and sued her for vote fraud at a trial court is unconstitutional, husband Jose Miguel told the Supreme Court in a motion filed today. The panel, which consists of prosecutors from the Justice department and election commissioners, risks the constitutionally guaranteed independence of the Commission on Elections, he said.
Police arrested Arroyo in a Manila hospital where she is being treated for high-blood pressure and other illnesses after her indictment on Nov. 18. The Aquino government defied a Nov. 15 order of the high court that granted Arroyo permission to seek medical treatment abroad. With the arrest warrant from the trial court, Arroyo could no longer leave the country, Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez said Nov. 18.
Twelve of the 15 Supreme Court justices were named by Arroyo and Chief Justice Renato Corona, who voted to lift the travel ban, was Arroyo’s chief of staff. The government wants Arroyo to stay in the country so she can enter her plea once she gets arraigned, without which she could not be tried.
The Pasay court agreed today to place the former leader under hospital arrest “for humanitarian reasons,” without objections from state prosecutors, Arroyo lawyer Jose Flaminiano said by phone in Manila today.
Flaminiano was also the lawyer of Joseph Estrada, who was convicted of plunder under Arroyo’s term in 2007 and spent years under house arrest before Arroyo pardoned him that same year.
President Benigno Aquino, who won office last year on an anti-corruption campaign, said in October that charges against Arroyo will be filed this month. His predecessor faces allegations she pocketed more than a billion pesos ($23 million) from a government contract in 2007 and that she and her husband rigged elections the same year.
The Philippine police filed a plunder complaint in September against Jose Miguel before an anti-graft body for the alleged irregular sale of helicopters. Arroyo’s eldest son, Juan Miguel, and his wife face tax evasion cases.
The Supreme Court is scheduled to meet tomorrow morning to discuss Jose Miguel’s plea and hear arguments in the case questioning the travel ban later in the afternoon. Aquino has said his predecessor’s problems with her parathyroid glands don’t require treatment abroad and offered to fly in specialists for Arroyo.