Nothing whimsical about Arroyo house arrest, lawyers tell court | Inquirer News
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Nothing whimsical about Arroyo house arrest, lawyers tell court

/ 04:09 PM May 28, 2015

THE lawyers of Gloria Arroyo said there is nothing “whimsical” about the former president’s request for house arrest as they criticized the prosecutors for refusing to believe that Arroyo’s condition is worsening while in hospital detention.

In its reply to the prosecution’s comment opposition filed before the Sandiganbayan First Division, Arroyo’s counsels denied the prosecutors’ claim that Arroyo’s request for house arrest is based on a whim if only to get extra-legal relief from detention.

“She is leading us to succumb into what she perceives as conundrum from her medical condition to get extra-legal and extra-constitutional relief,” the prosecutors said.

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“There is nothing whimsical about President Arroyo’s request to be placed under house arrest. Her request is based on the unanimous opinion of her doctors that continued detention in a hospital can only do so much for a patient, and that a change in environment can do a patient some good,” Arroyo’s motion said.

Arroyo’s counsels cited a litany of medical findings issued by four doctors and a psychologist, who all said Arroyo’s condition worsened while in the hospital.

One doctor even called Arroyo a “suffering sick lady.”

Her lawyers hit the prosecutors for insisting that Arroyo is better off in the hospital. “The prosecution, it seems, is having trouble reconciling the fact that President Arroyo is ill… To the prosecution’s mind, a sick person can only get well and fully recuperate in a hospital.”

Arroyo said she is suffering from cervical spondylosis, a degenerative disease of the bones and cartilage of the neck. She had also complained of “generalized body weakness, persistent pain over the nuchal and left shoulder with numbness of both hands and frequent episodes of choking,” according to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC), where she is detained for plunder.

“The medical experts advocate a ‘holistic’ approach, whereas the prosecution, playing doctor, would have the Honorable Court adopt a simplistic approach,” Arroyo’s motion said.

Her counsels also called a false analogy the prosecutors’ distinction between Arroyo’s case and that of former President Joseph Estrada, who was placed under house arrest in Tanay, Rizal when he faced plunder charges for illegal jueteng money. Estrada was convicted by the antigraft court but he was later pardoned by Arroyo herself.

Arroyo’s camp had said Estrada’s house arrest is a precedent to grant Arroyo’s request, but the prosecution countered that Estrada’s case is different from Arroyo’s.

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For one, Arroyo’s request for house arrest in her residence in La Vista subdivision, Quezon City, and in her hometown Lubao, Pampanga are nowhere near a military camp. Estrada’s house arrest is in his rest house in Tanay, near Camp Capinpin.

“The proximity of the rest house in Rizal to a military camp is not the decisive factor in the granting of the rest house arrest to President Estrada… It is the fact of restraint rather than the place of restraint that determines the arrest. President Estrada was considered under arrest in Rizal not because his rest house was adjacent to a military camp but because he remained a prisoner in the rest house,” Arroyo’s motion said.

Prosecutors also said Arroyo’s medical condition is different from Estrada, who then only needed therapy on his knees and did not need medical supervision as with Arroyo.

“If President Estrada, who was suffering merely from a knee injury, was allowed to be placed under rest house arrest… then more so should President Arroyo, who indisputably has not fully recovered from her spinal surgeries, be allowed to be placed under house arrest,” Arroyo’s motion said.

To the prosecutors’ argument that to grant Arroyo’s request would be an “insult” to other detention prisoners facing plunder, Arroyo’s lawyers instead painted a dire picture of the incumbent Pampanga congresswoman.

“Are any of these ‘other detention prisoners’ female and 68 years old? Have any of these undergone three major spinal surgeries in the past few years? Do any of these suffer from Cervical Spine Radiculopathy and Degenerative Lumbar Spine Disease?” Arroyo’s counsels said.

“The prosecution keeps turning a blind eye to the personal circumstances of President Arroyo. The prosecution is fixated on the notion that President Arroyo is trying to get special treatment… The prosecution should see her for what she is: a 68-year-old woman who has undergone three major spinal surgeries and whose condition, according to her doctors, has reached a plateau in the hospital and for whom a change in environment will do some good,” it added.

Arroyo filed the motion for house arrest a day after the antigraft court’s first division denied her demurrer of evidence, a move to dismiss the supposedly weak evidence against her and dismiss the case.

Arroyo is under hospital detention due to plunder for allegedly using P366 million in intelligence funds for the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) from 2008 to 2010 for personal gain. AC

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