|FORMER PRESIDENT ARROYO in a better condition with her lawyer Raul Lambino inside a hospital. Due to poor health, she is seeking a two-day leave from detenton to undergo medical treatment at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City.|
By CLAIRE RIVERA MORALES TRUE
MANILA —Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appears to have won the complaint filed by her lawyer before the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations Office of the High Commission on Human Rights.
The decision is a big boost to Mrs. Arroyo’s petition for bail and also her candidacy for a third and final term as congresswoman of the second district of Pampanga which covers the towns of Lubao, Sasmuan, Floridablanca, Guagua, Porac and Sta. Rita.
In reaction to the news, Malacañang said it respects the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention’s (WGAD) opinion on the case involving former president Arroyo, but maintained that the latter has been accorded due process under Philippine law.
In a statement, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said the Philippines “takes note of the opinion of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and will prepare an appropriate response, according to WGAD’s rules.”
Quoting the Department of Foreign Affairs, he said the country, as a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, abides by its international obligations and ensures that all individuals are accorded due process under its laws.
“Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been accorded such due process and has availed herself of various legal remedies under Philippine laws. It must be noted that there is an ongoing judicial process in the Philippine courts, which has sole jurisdiction to decide on such matters. The Philippine Government or any international body for that matter, cannot interfere nor influence the course of an independent judicial proceeding,” he said in the statement.
During the daily media briefing at the Palace, Coloma reiterated that while the Philippine government respects the UN-WGAD’s opinion, it disagrees with the view expressed by the group.
The United Nation Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) had found Arroyo’s hospital arrest as “arbitrary and violative of the international law on human rights.”
International human rights lawyer Alamuddin Clooney, wife of US actor George Clooney, claimed that the UN Group found ex-PGMA’s detention for plunder as “politically-motivated.”
”Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been accorded such due process and has availed herself of various legal remedies under Philippine laws,” Coloma said in a press statement.
Coloma noted that there is an on-going judicial process in the Philippine courts, which has sole jurisdiction to decide on such matters.
As such he said, “The Philippine government or any international body for that matter, cannot interfere nor influence the course of an independent judicial proceeding.”
Coloma said the Philippines takes note of the United Nation WGAD’s opinion and “will prepare an appropriate response according to the WGAD’s rules.”
”The Philippines, as a signatory to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, abides by its international obligations and ensures that all individuals are accorded due process under its laws,” he said.
Arroyo, 68, who is reportedly suffering degenerative diseases of the bones and cartilage of the neck, is presently in hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC). She has sought a two-day leave from detention to undergo medical procedure at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City. The court, at press time, has not ruled on the petition.
The anti-graft court has repeatedly denied Arroyo’s bail petition, prompting the former president to seek the help of the Hollywood actor’s lawyer-wife earlier this year.
Even as Arroyo continues to be under hospital arrest, the bail petitions of the other respondents in the case have been granted.
Mrs. Arroyo is facing plunder charges for allegedly using P366 million in intelligence fund of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) from 2008 to 2010. Her co-accused in the case, however, have all been discharged from the case or freed on bail.
ABS-CBN reported on the development based on Clooney’s statements.
According to Clooney, the government filed on June 15 its reply through the Philippines Permanent Mission to the UN in Geneva.
She said the government argued that Arroyo’s detention was legal and the UN Working Group should dismiss the case.
”Mrs. Arroyo then filed a written response to the government’s arguments through her counsel. The working group therefore had before it extensive legal submissions both from Mrs. Arroyo’s counsel and from the government’s legal advisors,” Clooney said.
Clooney said the working group, a prominent UN body composed of 5 independent human rights experts, ”endorsed the arguments advanced by Mrs. Arroyo’s counsel in full and held that in its reply submitted last June, the government had failed to refute any of her allegations.”
Clooney said the UN found the detention of the former president arbitrary and illegal under international law ”because the Sandiganbayan court failed to take into account her individual circumstances when it repeatedly denied bail, failed to consider measures alternative to pre-trial detention and because of the undue delays in proceedings against her.”
“Further, the working group recognized that the charges against Mrs. Arroyo are politically motivated, since she is detained as a result of the exercise of her right to take part in government and conduct of public affairs and because of her political…opinion,” Clooney said.
”The working group highlighted in particular the government’s defiance of court rulings removing travel bans against Mrs. Arroyo as an example of the government targeting her and interfering with judicial decisions in her case, this finding related to an incident in which the justice minister prevented Mrs. Arroyo from boarding a plane in November 2011 in violation of a Supreme Court ruling allowing her to seek medical treatment abroad.