Arroyo visits House, prepares for RH voteBy Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, wearing a neck brace and lumbar support, paid a brief visit to the House of Representatives Tuesday.
The Pampanga representative, out on bail after eight months of hospital detention on charges of electoral sabotage, described her appearance at the plenary hall as a “dry run” for the chamber’s crucial vote on the reproductive health (RH) bill on August 7.
“That’s why I’m strengthening myself today so that I’ll be sure to be here on voting day. I’ll take today like a dry run for Tuesday,” she told reporters.
On August 7, proponents of the RH measure are expected to move to close the period of interpellation so the chamber could proceed to the period of amendments on controversial House Bill No. 4244.
“I’m voting against (it),” said Arroyo, who has consistently opposed the RH bill.
Arroyo arrived at about 4 p.m. and was met by fellow members of the minority. She was escorted by her son, Representative Juan Miguel Arroyo.
Arroyo settled into her seat in the second row and stayed for 18 minutes. She proceeded to the South Wing lounge where she chatted with colleagues like Minority Leader Danilo Suarez and Representatives Amelita Villarosa and Milagros Magsaysay.
After 20 minutes, the House roll was called and it was not sure if her attendance was recorded.
Suarez said Arroyo was offered some soup but she declined it because she had difficulty swallowing. Arroyo then described the laborious process of her food intake.
“Crispy is better than hard because it’s cut into small, small pieces. Then I will have to turn my head left so that the food will go down. It’s a complicated procedure that’s why sometimes I’d rather not (eat),” she said.
Not ready for surgery
Arroyo said she had been advised by her doctor to go through another surgery. But she said she was “not physically and emotionally ready” for it.
“The substitute for that now is extensive therapy,” she said.
Suarez said that Arroyo’s visit was brief because of her medical condition.
“One thing I noticed from the time she alighted from her vehicle up (to the time she took) her seat (at the plenary hall) was that she was really gasping,” he said, noting that Arroyo could not even go up to her office on the second floor.
However brief the visit was, Suarez said it was a “sentimental” one for Arroyo.
“That’s her job. She’s an elected official. Of course, she feels bad that she cannot actively participate as a congressman because of her condition,” he said.
Arroyo said her participation in the upcoming deliberations on the proposed P2-trillion national budget next year would depend on her “day-to-day” condition.
Arroyo was detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center on charges of electoral sabotage. But a Pasay court ruled last week that the government’s evidence against her was weak. She was granted bail of P1 million.
The Commission on Elections, which filed the case against her, has submitted a motion to reconsider the grant of bail. A hearing on this motion set for Tuesday has been reset to Aug. 10.
The judge granted the pleading of Arroyo’s lawyer, Ray Montri Santos, to postpone the hearing since the defense counsel had yet to receive a copy of the motion.
The head of the Comelec’s law department, Esmeralda Ladra, maintained that the evidence against Arroyo—from a lone witness—was not weak.
“(Our witness) did not just overhear Arroyo instructing (former Maguindanao Governor Andal) Ampatuan Sr. He heard it himself…he was a foot away from them,” Ladra told reporters at the Pasay Regional Trial Court 112 which is hearing the case. With a report from Niña Calleja