Philippines issues arrest warrant for ex-president Arroyo

MANILA, (Reuters) – A Phillipine court today issued an arrest warrant for former President Gloria  Macapagal Arroyo on charges of electoral fraud, which carry a  life sentence, just hours before she was planned to fly out of  the country for medical treatment.
The arrest warrant came just after the government lost its  motion asking the Supreme Court to reverse its ruling that put  on hold a travel ban on the former leader.
“That is the real triumph of justice,” said Justice  Secretary Leila de Lima, whose government has long accused  Arroyo of corruption during her time in office from 2001-2010,  though it had not formally charged her.
Arroyo, 64, is currently in hospital and there was no word  on when police might serve the warrant.
She already made one attempt to leave for medical treatment  this week but the government stopped her at the airport  believing she was trying to avoid investigation and possible  prosecution.
Both military and police leaders promised to maintain law  and order, dismissing rumours of unrest within their ranks.
The winner of the 2010 election, President Benigno Aquino,   campaigned on fighting corruption and prosecuting those  responsible for it, winning strong support after two  administrations that had been dogged by allegations of  wrongdoing.
He vowed in particular to pursue Arroyo, although the  Supreme Court last year blocked his plans for a special  commission to investigate her.
Arroyo had prosecuted her predecessor, Joseph Estrada for  corruption. However after he was convicted of plunder and  sentenced to life imprisonment, Arroyo pardoned him. Despite the  conviction, Estrada was runner-up in the 2010 presidential  election.

Arroyo, who denies all charges against her, also faces  allegations of fraud over the 2004 presidential election and  corruption in her administration.
The alleged vote rigging happened in the restive southern  Muslim province of Maguindanao, where all 12 pro-Arroyo senate  candidates won a clean of sweep of the province at term  elections in 2007, at odds with national trends.
“After finding the existence of probable cause, the court  issued a warrant of arrest against the accused,” a clerk of  Pasay City Regional Trial Court told reporters.
Arroyo herself has not been seen 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, but she and her husband were turned back.
She has since been at a private hospital in Manila.
“We will not object to a hospital arrest. We will not insist  on bringing her to any detention facility,” de Lima said.
Dozens of police officers had ringed the hospital on Friday  before the warrant was issued. Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo  said they were there to ensure the safety of Arroyo.
The Pasay City court also set on Monday morning a hearing on  a separate petition to issue a hold departure order, which could   permanently prevent Arroyo from leaving the country.

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