Arroyo eyes furlough to attend Velarde anniversary

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Former President and now Rep. Gloria Arroyo of Pampanga has asked the Sandiganbayan for furlough so she could attend the golden wedding anniversary of El Shaddai leader Bro. Mariano “Mike” Velarde and his wife Belen on July 18.

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In a three-page motion filed July 7, Arroyo cited the Velarde couple listing her as a principal sponsor in their renewal of vows alongside former president Joseph Estrada, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., former first lady Imelda Marcos, among other high-profile personalities.

“Humbled and privileged of having been chosen as one of the principal sponsors, it is accused/movant’s fervent wish and desire to grace the occasion as Bro. Mike Velarde is not only a close friend but her spiritual adviser as well,” her motion stated.

Arroyo is under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City over a P366-million plunder charge leveled against her over alleged misuse of intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

The Pampanga lawmaker assured that while she is suffering from a deteriorating health condition, she is fit to travel and can withstand an hour’s ride from the VMMC in Quezon City to Amvel City in San Dionisio, Parañaque City (Metro Manila) where the Velarde couple’s golden wedding anniversary will be held.

The furlough, Arroyo’s camp argued, is in accordance with the former leader’s constitutional right to be presumed innocent because she is yet to be convicted of any offense.

“She should be afforded the same privileges that those who have not [been]found guilty by final judgment of a criminal offense may enjoy, the furlough being asked herein included,” the motion said.

Arroyo said she is willing to foot the bill for the additional security expenses that her furlough would entail, including food, gasoline, communication, as well as the ambulance with life-support medical equipment.

She promised to be back at the VMMC by 9 p.m. of July 18.

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