With just days before Christmas, detained former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is still deciding whether to request for a furlough from the Sandiganbayan.
“She is yet to make a decision. We know of the clamor from some lawmakers, but I would say we are afraid to ask for a Christmas furlough [this time]because our request for such last year was denied,” Anacleto Diaz, the lawyer for Arroyo in her P366-million plunder case, told The Manila Times in a phone interview.
At least 42 congressmen are calling on the anti-graft court to allow Arroyo to be released from detention during the holidays.
Arroyo is a member of the House, representing Pampanga province.
“We don’t want to suffer another setback, but I am yet to be given instructions on this. She is still looking at the merits of the furlough and she still has to talk to her family,” Diaz said.
But even without a petition from Arroyo, it is within Sandiganbayan’s power to grant her a Christmas furlough, Diaz said.
The court “can grant her furlough, even without a motion, if it deems such action would conform to justice, equity and fairness. This is because our courts are not only courts of law, but courts of equity as well,” he said.
1-BAP Rep. Silvestre Bello 3rd, author of the House Resolution appealing to the Sandiganbayan to grant a furlough to Arroyo, agreed with Diaz.
“The court can motu propio grant her furlough, even without a motion from the accused and a House Resolution, if they feel that her detention is prejudicial to and would compromise her health,” Bello told The Times in a separate phone interview.
“The court should not consider popularity when it decides on cases. It should be based on merits of the case. I am appealing to the court to grant her furlough because she is not a flight risk, she is sick, there is a Hold Departure Order against her. How can she leave? She was a president for 10 years, a former vice president and a former senator. Where would she hide?” Bello said.
Bello, who was a Justice secretary in the Arroyo administration, said he recently saw the former president while playing golf at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.
Arroyo is under hospital detention at Veterans Memorial.
“I talked to her only in passing, for five minutes at most. We exchanged pleasantries. She wasn’t talking very much. She looks ill and she has gone really thin since the last time I saw her during the campaign period in 2010,” Bello said, referring to the 2010 presidential elections where he ran for the Senate under the Arroyo administration ticket but lost.
Former Quezon province congressman Danilo Suarez, a partymate of the former President under Lakas Christian Muslim Democrats, shared Bello’s sentiments.
“The Palace said it is with the court, and that’s as good as saying no. She is a woman, elderly, sick and has been detained for quite some time. We are appealing to their sense of compassion,” Suarez said.