Former Philippines' president booked on poll fraud

Updated: 2011-11-19 20:06


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MANILA - Philippine police officers took the mugshots and fingerprints of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at a Manila hospital Saturday, where she is under heavy guard after being arrested on charges of fraud.

"The former president was sitting in a reclining position on her bed when her fingerprints and pictures were taken," Senior Superintendent Joel Coronel, head of the national police's criminal investigation and detection group, told reporters outside St. Luke's hospital.

"She was wearing a hospital gown and a neck brace but was responding to queries from our medical team. An intravenous fluid is hydrating her," he said.

A police officer took Arroyo's mugshots, Coronel said.

He declined to release copies of the photographs, saying they would be reported to a lower court that issued an arrest warrant Friday that stopped her from leaving the country.

Arroyo, elected into the lower house of Congress last year, was scheduled to fly to Singapore after the Supreme Court upheld its earlier suspension of the government's travel ban on her and her husband.

Her arrest comes 18 months after President Benigno Aquino won an election by vowing to fight corruption and prosecuting those responsible, and particularly pursue Arroyo.

The former leader's legal spokesman, Raul Lambino, said they will question the lower court's jurisdiction to handle the electoral sabotage charges against Arroyo when they appear before the Pasay City regional trial court Monday.

"The process was not only railroaded and the Pasay City court is the not right venue to hear the complaint," Lambino told Reuters, saying the arrest warrant against Arroyo could be quashed if the lower court loses jurisdiction over the case.

Arroyo says she needs to travel to seek medical treatment for a spine condition, but the government believes she wants to evade investigation and possible prosecution.

Arroyo, president from 2001-2010, has consistently denied the allegations against her.

The alleged vote rigging happened in the restive southern Muslim province of Maguindanao, where all 12 pro-Arroyo senate candidates won a clean sweep of the province at mid-term elections in 2007, at odds with national trends.

The charges carry a life sentence.

Arroyo also faces allegations of fraud over a 2004 presidential election and corruption in her administration, which the government is still investigating.

Arroyo's predecessor, Joseph Estrada, told local media her arrest was "karma" and he hoped she would recover her health to face the charges.

"She should be made accountable not only for electoral sabotage but also corruption," he said from Singapore.

Arroyo took office in 2001 when Estrada was forced from power, and prosecuted him for corruption. In 2007, Estrada was convicted of plunder and sentenced to life imprisonment, but Arroyo pardoned him.

Arroyo has not been seen in public since Tuesday night, when, following the initial Supreme Court decision to lift her travel ban, she had turned up at the airport in a wheelchair and her neck in a brace.

The government stopped her and her husband from boarding a flight and she has since been in the hospital, where she was formally arrested Friday.

Monday, the Pasay City court that issued her arrest warrant will hear a separate petition to issue a hold departure order, which could permanently prevent Arroyo from leaving the country.