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ON ARROYO’S TREATMENT ABROAD:

Palace says it’s up to the courts

Doctor confirms choking episodes

It’s up to the courts to decide whether former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, reportedly stricken by a life-threatening condition, should be allowed to seek medical treatment abroad, Malacañang said on Friday.

The government doctor and jail custodian of Arroyo on Friday confirmed that Arroyo had been experiencing choking episodes whose cause was detected in the quantum electrochemistry examination (like a CT scan but more thorough) that she underwent the other day.

But Dr. Nona Legaspi, the director of the VMMC where Arroyo is detained, refused to issue an official statement on what an unnamed ally of the former President had said was “a life-threatening condition” that may require immediate surgery abroad.

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Cannot eat

Also on Friday, Occidental Mindoro Rep. Ma. Amelita Villarosa, a political ally and close friend of Arroyo, confirmed the Inquirer report, saying the former President and now Pampanga Representative was facing a “life and death” situation.

Villarosa, who visited Arroyo at Makati Medical Center on Thursday, said she saw how Arroyo was in “deep pain.”

“She needs medical treatment. She cannot eat because there is a metal blocking her food. She can speak but with great difficulty,” she said.

“It’s a matter of life and death. When any part of your body is feeling pain, your heart will be under heavy pressure,” she said.

Asked if an appeal should be made to President Aquino to allow Arroyo to go abroad for medical treatment, Villarosa said “let’s wait for her doctors to make a formal announcement.”

This was also the stance of Arroyo’s sons, Camarines Sur Rep. Dato Arroyo and party-list member Juan Miguel Arroyo (Ang Galing Pinoy).

According to Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap, Arroyo was having dinner with friends a few days ago when she started complaining about the pain in her throat. Yap said this prompted the unscheduled checkup.

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Villarosa said that government doctors from the Philippine National Police and the VMMC witnessed the examination of Arroyo at Makati Medical Center.

No official word yet

“That has not been confirmed officially, or at least by the medical doctors… The case is now pending before the courts,” said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.

As far as Malacañang or government doctors are concerned, they have yet to receive any information on the reported “life-threatening” condition of the former President, Lacierda said.

“As far as we know, her condition has been getting better or has improved since November,” Lacierda said.

He noted that Arroyo was in detention for a nonbailable offense.

“It is now within the courts to decide. If they should decide to seek medical attention (abroad), that would be left to the judgment of the judge, the courts to do so,” he said.

Arroyo was ordered arrested last year by Pasay City Judge Jesus Mupas on the nonbailable charge of electoral fraud and is confined under hospital arrest at the state-owned Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC). She has since been indicted in connection with the aborted $329-million National Broadband Network contract with Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE Corp.

Confirmation

“I can confirm a positive yield during the examination based on the report of our medical team who observed the procedure, but it was a wet reading, we are still waiting for the official written medical report from Dr. Robert Anastacio,” Legaspi said in a phone interview.

“We are waiting for the medical report and other related prognosis to study them to come out with our own assessment,” she said.

As soon as the VMMC government doctors receive the medical report from Anastacio, they will study it and will submit their own recommendation to higher authorities, Legaspi said.

On Thursday, Arroyo was transported under heavy security to Makati Medical Center to undergo the quantum electrochemistry diagnostic test that was conducted by Anastacio.

A source close to Arroyo told the Inquirer the other day that the results of the examination showed that the choking sensations she had been experiencing was caused by the titanium implant—which had been placed in her body during surgery for a cervical spine ailment in 2011—protruding into her esophagus.

The source, who asked not to be named for lack of authority to speak to the media, claimed to be quoting Anastacio, said that the choking episodes were life-threatening and corrective surgery was immediately needed, which an unnamed doctor who was present at the examination said can only be done abroad.

Arroyo first underwent an operation on her cervical spine in 2011. She had “revision” surgery in August 2011 after it was found that the titanium implants connecting four levels of her spine had been dislodged by what was initially thought an infection. Two weeks after, she went through a third operation.

The former President wanted to seek medical treatment abroad last year but was prevented from doing so by the Aquino government, which claimed that she was trying to leave the country to escape prosecution for various charges.

Needle can’t get to implant

According to the VMMC’s Legaspi, despite the new findings on Arroyo’s medical condition, no added medication has been administered to her, “but she was advised to wear always the neck brace, especially in uncontrolled areas.”

She said Arroyo has also not made any requests after her return to the VMMC on Thursday.

The government doctor said that should Arroyo’s choking episodes worsen, the VMMC doctors can attend to her.

“The presidential suite where she is staying is very near the emergency room and we have capable doctors who could perform a tracheotomy,” Legaspi said.

“However, the impediment to supply oxygen is with GMA (Arroyo’s initials) herself, the titanium implant blocking her esophagus cannot be penetrated by needle,” she said.

Legaspi said that Anastacio, a noted cardiologist, was Arroyo’s personal choice to conduct the quantum electrochemistry examination.

She described the quantum electrochemistry examination as the “future of medicine because of its efficiency to detect even the tiniest molecules.”

Doubts about running again

Arroyo’s worsening health has raised doubts among her Lakas-CMD party mates that she would seek reelection in the midterm elections a year from now.

“I think she will run again and only her medical condition will stop her from running,” said Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, noting that Arroyo could still campaign even under hospital detention.

But Lakas-CMD leaders believe that Arroyo’s health was more important at this point than retaining control of her congressional seat.

La Union Rep. Victor Ortega said Arroyo has not given any indication whether she would run or not in 2013.  “With her condition, I would like to think she would not run again,” said Ortega.

Mike at Sandiganbayan

Siquijor Rep. Orlando Fua said that since Arroyo was unlikely to be a political threat, the government might reconsider its hardline stance against allowing her to seek medical treatment abroad.

Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo on Friday presented himself and his passport before the Sandiganbayan 4th Division after he returned from a trip to Japan.

Mike Arroyo, who was accompanied by his lawyer Edna Batacan, showed his passport to court officials to prove that he had gone to Japan.

He is facing the same electoral sabotage charges as his wife and was placed on the immigration watch list. He was permitted by the court to go to Japan for a week. He left Manila on May 3 and returned home on Thursday night.

On his way home, he had a stopover in Hong Kong for a “short rest,” said Batacan, who added that Mike Arroyo’s return was proof that he had no intention to flee the country and avoid facing the charges against him.

Unable to talk to wife

Mike Arroyo said he had met with Japanese businessmen who wanted to invest in renewable energy in the Philippines. But he said his trip was not as fruitful as he hoped as some investors expressed dismay at the political situation in the Philippines.

He said he had not been able to talk to his wife when he arrived on Thursday. “She was asleep when I arrived,” he said, adding that he has yet to discuss her condition with her doctors since his return.

Batacan explained that the former President’s pain medication has left her sleepy and drowsy all the time. With a report from Kristine L. Alave

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TAGS: electoral sabotage, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Mike Arroyo, quantum electrochemistry examination
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