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Pasay court junks GMA motion to spend Christmas, New Year at her QC residence


A Pasay city court hearing the electoral sabotage case filed against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo junked on Wednesday her bid to spend the Christmas and New Year's holidays at their residence in La Vista Subdivision, Quezon City.

Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 112 Presiding Judge Jesus Mupas issued an ordering stating that the 64-year-old former President would have to spend Christmas and New Year at Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City.

Mupas allowed Mrs. Arroyo’s immediate family to visit her for the holidays -- from December 24 to 26 and from December 31, 2011 to January 2, 2012 -- at the presidential suite of the VMMC where she has been on hospital arrest in connection with the non-bailable offense filed by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) against her last month.

The case was in connection with the alleged irregularities in the 2007 mid-term elections in Mindanao.
Mrs. Arroyo was transferred from the St. Luke's Medical Center (SLMC) in Taguig City to the VMMC last December 9.
“They (Arroyo’s family) are allowed to spend Christmas at the VMMC from December 24 to 26 and from December 31 to January 2,” clerk of court Atty. Joel Pelicano said in a briefing.

Comelec lawyer Maria Juana Valeza said Mrs. Arroyo could not be allowed to leave her suite at the VMMC, citing security risks in her transfer to her residence in La Vista even for the holiday celebrations.

At the same time, Pelicano said that an earlier order of Mupas barring Arroyo from bringing cellular phones or laptops to the VMMC’s presidential suite will stay, though he clarified that her lawyers can bring in such electronic gadgets when they pay her a visit provided they bring it with them when they leave the hospital.

The prosecution team from the Comelec said allowing Arroyo to bring laptop or cellular phone at her detention place constituted a special treatment which is prohibited by the Constitution.

Arroyo’s camp earlier argued that she should be allowed access to these gadgets so that she can continue her work as a lawmaker and interact with her Pampanga constituents.

Her spokesperson, Elena Bautista-Horn, said she also needed a laptop as she would be working on her memoir while under hospital arrest.

But it would not be a totally gloomy holiday season for the former Chief Executive as Judge Mupas allowed her request to have radio and a television set inside the VMMC’s presidential suite as well as another request of her to get sunlight and fresh air for one hour everyday, and to visit the hospital’s chapel.

The poll body did not object to these requests.

Sought for comment, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio, lawyer of Mrs. Arroyo’s husband, former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, said they might file a motion for reconsideration of the court’s order, but added he and the rest of her legal team would still discuss the issue.

“We still have to confer with the other lawyers after getting the sentiments of the former President. As you know, we have problems communicating with her due to the prohibition on cellular phones and Internet connection so we have to go there personally to tell her about it,” Topacio said.

But he added they will respect the court’s decision.

“We respect the decision of the court if that is his (Mupas) decision,” added Topacio

Mrs. Arroyo is facing electoral sabotage charges filed by the Comelec in connection with alleged irregularities in the 2007 senatorial elections.

Also included in the case were former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and former Election Supervisor Lintang Bedol.

By Christopher Lloyd T. Caliwan

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