The Sandiganbayan has allowed former President Gloria Arroyo to spend Christmas at her home in La Vista, Quezon City.
In a three-page ruling, the anti-graft court’s First Division granted Arroyo’s request for a furlough, citing among other reasons the visit of Pope Francis in January.
The court described the pope as “the personification of mercy and compassion.”
Arroyo, who is under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City, will stay at La Vista from December 23 to 26.
Her lawyers, Modesto Ticman Jr. and Laurence Arroyo, thanked the court.
Arroyo requested for a 12-day furlough, from December 23 to January 3, but the court gave her only four days.
Just the same, Ticman told reporters that “the favorable resolution is more than enough to make the former President happy.”
The 67-year-old Arroyo, who was elected congressman of Pampanga, is facing a P366-million plunder case.
The last time she was granted a furlough was when her brother-in-law, Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo, died in London.
Arroyo lost another loved one in November, when her year-old grandson by daughter Luli, Jorge Alonzo “Jugo” Arroyo Bernas, died from a congenital heart problem.
The resolution was written by First Division Acting Chairman Rodolfo Ponferrada and concurred in by Associate Justices Rafael Lagos and Alex Quiroz.
Arroyo’s application for bail has been consistently denied by the court, citing strong evidence against her.
In the resolution granting her Christmas furlough, Ponferrada quoted his dissenting opinion in her petition for bail that “(t)here is no strong evidence that ill-gotten wealth was amassed, accumulated or acquired by any of the accused as in fact the existence of such ill-gotten wealth was not clearly established.”
Lagos wrote beside his signature, “My concurrence is based only on humanitarian and compassionate grounds.”
The granting of the Christmas furlough carries several terms and conditions. Arroyo will leave the VMMC at 10 a.m. on December 23 and must be back at the hospital 2 p.m. December 26.
She will not be allowed to use a mobile phone, laptop or any other means of communication. News interviews will also not be allowed.