Prosecutors have vehemently objected to a request of former President and now Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Pampanga for her to spend Christmas and New Year with her family at home.
Arroyo is facing a P366-million plunder case before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan’s First Division in connection with alleged misuse of the state charity funds during her presidency.
She has been under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City since 2011.
“She has no legal basis for a temporary liberty from confinement being a detention prisoner charged with a non-bailable offense. It must be pointed out that should the accused’s motion be granted, it opens doors to every detained person to apply for a prison furlough and be allowed on a temporary liberty to be able to celebrate the holidays,” the prosecutors argued in a four-page Comment/Opposition filed on Tuesday.
In persuading the court to deny Arroyo’s request, they cited the court’s resolution dated December 19, 2012 wherein it ruled that curtailment of freedom and confinement in a detention center is a necessary consequence of being charged with a non-bailable offense.
To allow Arroyo to go to Lubao (her hometown in Pampanga) to celebrate Christmas and New Year with her relatives whom she had not seen for a long time “would be a display of partiality in her favor,” the ruling was quoted.
The prosecutors said her request was not one of the privileges she may enjoy as a detainee, and runs counter to the essence of her detention.
In persuading the court to grant her furlough from December 23, 2014 to January 3, 2015, Arroyo cited in her request filed last week her advanced age and “failing state of health— notwithstanding her confinement at the VMMC.”
Attached to the pleading was a six-page Psychological Assessment Report prepared by clinical psychologist Dr. Arnulfo Lopez wherein he recommended, “She has to have more bonding with her family, be given more time for her health, and exercise activities and to perform her duties and responsibilities as a lawmaker and public servant, as this is the meaning of normal and usual life for her for so many years.”
Arroyo argued that for her to be celebrating with the family the holiday season this year is well within “the meaning of normal and usual life for her for so many years” that could help make her health better, because the observance of the Christmas season at her house for the past several years has been a family tradition.
But the prosecutors said the court had already resolved this matter when it denied Arroyo’s plea for bail.
The resolution considered Dr. Lopez’ recommendation and ruled that there is nothing in law that allows the court to grant a petition for bail to restore the accused to the pink of health and also, that Arroyo must be treated like other detainees.
“The court is already compassionate—and that is the reason she was put under hospital arrest to secure her health and to enable her to immediately respond to her medical needs. She should not be allowed to abuse such compassion by unreasonably demanding more,” the prosecutors said.
The last time Arroyo was granted a furlough by the Sandiganbayan was when her brother-in-law, Rep. Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo of Negros Occidental, died of a lingering liver ailment in London.
She was granted a two-day leave, which she spent on attending the first and last days of Iggy’s wake in her La Vista residence in Quezon City, where she also now seeks to spend the holidays.