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Philippines Rejects Arroyo Plea for Treatment Overseas

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Nov. 8 (Bloomberg) -- The Philippines rejected ex-President Gloria Arroyo’s plea seeking permission to travel overseas for medical treatment, saying there was no guarantee the former leader would return to face election fraud charges.

Arroyo wants treatment outside of the Philippines that could “last indefinitely,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told a televised briefing in Manila today. Arroyo had planned to visit Germany, Singapore and Spain, countries with which the Philippines has no extradition treaty, the justice chief said.

“There lies a risk and it is something that I cannot afford to take,” de Lima said. “We cannot just allow them to flee beyond our reach.”

Taking Arroyo to court for allegedly pocketing more than a billion pesos from a government contract in 2007 and rigging the 2004 and 2007 elections is a test case for President Benigno Aquino, who won office last year under an anti-corruption campaign. Aquino had said charges against Arroyo would be filed this month.

The Justice department on Oct. 27 placed Arroyo, her husband Jose Miguel and more than 30 others on an immigration watch list to ensure they will stand trial.

Arroyo had earlier today asked the Supreme Court to stop the government from enforcing the travel ban, which she said violated her constitutional rights.

“Her condition is not life-threatening and will not result in irreparable damage based on the evaluation of Health Secretary Enrique Ona,” de Lima said.

Arroyo spokeswoman Elena Bautista told ABS-CBN News Channel the former president urgently needs to leave the country because her parathyroid glands are not working.

To contact the reporters on this story: Norman P. Aquino in Manila at naquino1@bloomberg.net; Joel Guinto in Manila at jguinto1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Clarissa Batino at cbatino@bloomberg.net

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