Says she’ll seek 2nd House term; bail questioned
LUBAO, Pampanga – Former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has started attending the session of the House of Representatives after she was allowed out of the Veterans Memorial Medical Center on P1 millon bail in connection with her electoral sabotage case.
Mrs. Arroyo attended the session on Tuesday although briefly so she can rest. It was her first session after eight months in detention at the hospital.
She said she will join the sessions and committee hearings on important issues like the P2 trillion national government budget, the Reproductive Health Bill, and the Conditional Cash Transfer program.
She revived her Facebook account to be able to reach out to more people and explain issues regarding her and the government.
In her first message, she sought the understanding and support of the people and urged them to pray for her health.
Two days after she was released from “hospital arrest,” Mrs. Arroyo visited her hometown of Lubao and nearby towns of Porac and Guagua, which are part of the second district of Pampanga which she represents in Congress. The other towns are Floridablanca and Sta. Rita.
The former President, still wearing her neck brace, told her constituents that she will continue to serve them.
“We will never part ways,” she stressed in Porac, Lubao and Guagua during meetings with her leaders and the ordinary folk.
Mrs. Arroyo made the pledge in Kapampangan before big crowds who gave her a rousing welcome her in the towns of Porac, Guagua and her hometown of Lubao two days after she was released on P1 million bail from her detention at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.
Mrs. Arroyo also vowed to continue to deliver projects to her district.
Pasay City Regional Trial Court Jesus Mupas approved her petition for bail due to weak evidence linking her to an election sabotage allegation in Maguindanao. The judge’s decision was considered a slap in the face of President Benigno S. Aquino III and his allies who assailed the judge’s ruling. Legal experts, however, claimed that this was a result of a case filed in haste by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and the Commission on Elections led by Chairman Sixto Brillantes so that Mrs. Arroyo could be arrested and detained.
Chairman Brillantes and Secretary de Lima later questioned the bail granted to Mrs. Arroyo. The hearing on the arguments on the matter was set by the court, but later had to reschedule it for some reasons.
Another arrest loomed immediately for Mrs. Arroyo but this was ruled out by the Sandiganbayan First Division which instead remanded her P366-million plunder case involving funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office to the Office of the Ombudsman for proper evaluation and ensure that those charged will be heard.
Although the Sandiganbayan did not lift its hold-departure order (HDO) on Mrs. Arroyo, in its six-page ruling, the Sandiganbayan First Division headed by Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz, granted Mrs. Arroyo’s petition to suspend prosecution of her plunder case and issuance of an arrest warrant against her pending her motion for reconsideration that was filed before the Office of the Ombudsman.
The anti-graft court also ordered the Ombudsman to resolve Arroyo’s appeal with dispatch.
But the Sandiganbayan did not withdraw the hold departure order (HDO) against Mrs. Arroyo which bars her from flying out of the country to ensure her trial on the plunder charge which stemmed from the alleged P366-million PCSO intelligence fund scam.
The co-accused of Mrs. Arroyo who also appealed the Ombudsman ruling were Sergio Valencia, former PCSO board chairman; Rosario Uriarte, former PCSO general manager; board members Manuel Morato, Jose Taruc 5th, Raymundo Roquero, and Ma. Fatima Valdes; Reynaldo Villar, former chairman of the Commission on Audit (CoA); and Nilda Plaras, former head of the CoA’s intelligence fund audit unit.
As an indication that she was raring to resume work as representative, she motored to the second district of Pampanga two days after her release to check on her many projects there and vowed to do more if given the chance.
The President’s visit to Pampanga was also an indication that she will run for a second term as congresswoman in the district once represented by her late father, President Diosdado Macapagal, uncle Angel Macapagal and son, Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, who accompanied her during the visit.
And the warm response of the leaders of her district and her constituents was an indication that she will win be a runaway winner again in the 2013 congressional elections.
Candaba Mayor Jerry Pelayo, president of the Pampanga Mayors League, Mayor Condralito de la Cruz of Porac, Mayor Ricardo Rivera of Guagua and Mayor Eduardo Guerrero of Floridablanca led the Pampanga residents who welcomed Arroyo.
After staying overnight at her house in Lubao, she heard a mass there in the morning and then motored to nearby Guagua on Saturday. She then motored back to her La Vista home in Quezon City to prepare for her resumption of work at the House of Representatives.
Elena Bautista-Horn, spokesperson of Mrs. Arroyo, confirmed the former President’s plan to run again in Congress, despite her illness and several plunder and criminal cases.
“She will run,” said Bautista-Horn, who accompanied Mrs. Arroyo in Pampanga.
Malacanang, in reaction to the announcement, said Mrs. Arroyo was free to run for reelection.
“Well, everybody is free to run in this country and that does not exclude the former President,” Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
Valte said it will be up to the Liberal Party (LP) to decide if it will challenge the former President in her own district during next year’s elections.
In the 2010 congressional elections in the district, three candidates were pitted against Mrs. Arroyo, including one from LP who was supported by former Pampanga Gov. Eduardo “Amung” Panlilio who lost to incumbent Governor Lilia G. Pineda.
Mrs. Arroyo attended Tuesday’s session of the House, barely a week after she was granted temporary liberty from hospital arrest in connection with electoral sabotage charges filed against her and after nearly eight months of detention at the VMMC.
Mrs. Arroyo, who came in wearing her neck brace, was accompanied by her son, Ang Galing Pinoy Party-list Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, and was met by members of the minority led by its leader, Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, and Occidental Mindoro Rep. Amelita Villarosa.
However, she left the session hall after only a few minutes.
Suarez said that the former president was still weak and needed to rest.
The minority leader said that they were happy that Mrs. Arroyo is now back at work.
Suarez also said they hoped that Arroyo would be able to attend the deliberations on the 2013 national budget.
Mrs. Arroyo’s erstwhile critic, retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, said it was her (Arroyo) option to run. Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros supported the stand of Bishop Cruz.
Comelec Chairman Sixto Brilliantes said it was the constitutional right of Mrs. Arroyo to run for reelection. Barring any disqualification, she was free to run again, he added.
“I can do more,” Mrs. Arroyo said in Kapampangan to her supporters who met her at Babo Sacan Elementary School in Porac, the hometown of Sen. Manuel Lapid.
Arroyo arrived in Porac last Friday afternoon after visiting an alternative wellness center in Tagaytay City, and the graves of her parents, former President Diosdado Macapagal and former First Lady Evangelina, at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City.
Prior to visiting her constituents in Pampanga, she returned to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, where she had been detained for eight months, for a physical therapy session.
In Porac, more than 1,000 residents, including school children, chanted “GMA! GMA!” as they held up placards expressing their love for her.
The crowd cheered and clapped when Arroyo replied in Kapampangan, “We will never part ways.”
Doctors of the former President recommended another surgery for her after being examined at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City when she complained of “shooting pain in the leg.”
In Tagaytay City, she met with Dr. Antonia Park at her wellness center. The physician from Davao who is married to a Korean businessman, said Mrs. Arroyo has “shooting pains and mandible problems” and recommended that she see an ortho-dentist, her regular doctors, and therapists for further treatment.
“The shooting pain in her leg is an offshoot of her lumbar sacral spine problem which VMMC doctors also found out in their first medical reports,” said Mrs. Bautista-Horn.
“She (Mrs. Arroyo) is in fact a candidate for another surgery but after three traumatic surgeries, she isn’t physically and emotionally ready for another surgery that’s why they prescribed conservative treatment first in the form of intensive physical therapy,” she added.
VMMC Director Dr. Nona Legaspi said the physical therapy that the former Chief Executive went through is done regularly and is supervised by Dr. Rafaelita Javier. The session takes only an hour and ideally should be done daily, she said.
“Ideally, daily… but pwede rin when she needs to,” Legaspi said when asked on how frequent Mrs. Arroyo needs to undergo therapy.