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VMMC bathroom for Arroyo needs fixing

/ 02:52 AM December 06, 2011

Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Saying the bathroom in her new place of detention still “needed fixing,” the lawyers of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have convinced the court to defer her transfer until Friday from St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City to a government hospital in Quezon City.

Judge Jesus Mupas of Pasay City Regional Trial Court Branch 112, however, said there would be “no more extensions” after he allowed Arroyo, now a congresswoman of Pampanga province, to stay for three more days beginning on Tuesday at the state-of-the-art private hospital.

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Under arrest since November 18 on charges of electoral sabotage, the 64-year-old Arroyo was initially given by Mupas until Tuesday to transfer to Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC).

But in a hearing Monday, Arroyo’s lawyers raised concerns about the bathroom at the VMMC presidential suite, citing its slippery floor, the knee-high enclosure for the bathtub, and the lack of safety handrails and bidet for the toilet.

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Jay Flaminiano, one of Arroyo’s counsels, presented photographs of the bathroom, saying its current condition could be hazardous to his client who is suffering from ailments that affect her mobility.

Arroyo had undergone three cervical spine surgeries and was recently diagnosed with colitis, or inflammation of the colon.

Arroyo footing bill

Flaminiano said the former President had expressed her willingness to shoulder the cost of replacing the tiles and other repairs. Flaminiano also pointed out the need to install hand rails and a bidet in the toilet. The knee-high bathtub enclosure may also have to be removed.

The bathroom “needed fixing,” the lawyer said. “That’s why we move that we be allowed to do a renovation” which would take about three days, he added.

At one point, the defense motion drew an objection from Prosecutor Maria Juana Valeza, who said the renovations mentioned by Flaminiano could be finished in just “24 hours.”

Arroyo should be brought to VMMC “by Friday,” Mupas later ruled. He also ordered the court sheriff to check on the progress of the repairs.

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Another defense lawyer, Lawrence Arroyo (no relation to the accused), placed on record that his client would shoulder the cost of the repairs.

Use of phone, laptop

Prosecutors and defense lawyers also tangled over Arroyo’s request to be allowed to use her mobile phone and laptop while in detention.

Her lawyers mainly argued that the performance of her “constitutional and moral duties” as Pampanga representative should not be curtailed by her detention, and that she remained “innocent” of the charges until proven otherwise.

Valeza countered that the Supreme Court had consistently ruled against allowing any detainee to use mobile phones and laptops, like in the case of convicted child rapist and former Congressman Romeo Jalosjos.

The prosecutor also recalled that a Makati City court had rejected a request from Senator Antonio Trillanes IV to be granted access to the Internet and telephone lines while in detention for rebellion charges. The local court also barred Trillanes from attending sessions at the Senate, she said.

Lawrence Arroyo also reported to the court that, based on information from her doctors, the former President was already “responding well to treatment” and that she had begun taking antibiotics orally, no longer through an intravenous drip.

Hearing this update, Mupas was visibly irked when the defense panel later requested that Arroyo be allowed to stay for three more days at St. Luke’s. He then asked lawyer Arroyo if the Pampanga representative was indeed “ready to leave the hospital.”

“She’s medically fit but not fully recovered,” the lawyer replied.

OK with DOJ, Comelec

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima Monday posed no objections to Mupas’ decision to defer Arroyo’s transfer.

“We have to respect the decision. I think (she) was just given additional period to prepare (the presidential suite),” she said.

“I think it makes little difference between now and Friday. Maybe for the good of everyone, (it’s OK) to make sure that (VMMC is) safe to allay all apprehensions and fears on this claim about the threat on the life of the former President,” De Lima told reporters on the sidelines of the 1st National Criminal Justice Summit at the Manila Hotel.

She was referring to claims made by the Arroyo camp last week that a plot code-named “Put the Little Girl to Sleep” had been hatched to finish off Arroyo. De Lima said the claim was “rather quite off and far from reality.”

The Commission on Elections (Comelec), Arroyo’s main accuser in the election sabotage case, yesterday said it had no plans of appealing Mupas’ decision.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said a three-day extension was “no big deal,” but added that the electoral body would fight it out in court for Arroyo to be moved to the Southern Police District (SPD) headquarters in Bicutan, Taguig City, once she is given a clean bill of health.

“There’s no problem about that. What we have been saying ever since is that it’s up to the court,” Brillantes said. “What’s important is that we will push for her transfer to the SPD detention facility as soon as she’s well enough to be discharged from the hospital.”

The Comelec on November 18 filed charges of electoral sabotage against Arroyo for allegedly masterminding massive fraud in Maguindanao province to ensure her candidates’ victory during the 2007 midterm elections. With reports from Marlon Ramos and Jocelyn R. Uy

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TAGS: arroyo arrest, Arroyo health, Crime, electoral sabotage, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Government, Hospital Arrest, Judiciary, Justice, law, Pasay RTC, VMMC
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