Handling Arroyo won’t be difficult, says executive secretary
MANILA, Philippines—Despite a jittery start in transferring her from a private hospital to a government hospital, Malacañang is confident that the government could handle former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her security and other needs.
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa said Saturday that Malacañang didn’t consider Arroyo as a difficult detainee following ranting by her aides and lawyers about the government’s alleged incompetent handling of her transfer.
“I don’t see any difficulty. The entire government capability is being used first to protect her safety, and give her due courtesy as a former president, and third, consider her condition. All of these had been factored in her situation,” he told reporters at the National College of Public Administration and Governance in Quezon City.
Arroyo aide Elena Bautista-Horn had complained to the media about the hours-long delay in the transfer of Arroyo, who she claimed had been up at either 6 a.m. or 7 a.m. Government officials, however, said the agreement was to pick her up at past 8 a.m. Nonetheless the transfer took place past 3 p.m.
Ochoa also said that Malacañang had no problem with Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, staying by the side of his wife in the presidential suite at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.
“That should not be problem but there are rules on visitation on a detainee,” he said. “These are rules, but there will be modifications because of her medical condition.”
He said the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology has its own rules on who should be staying in the suite, and that the Arroyos should comply with these rules.
Ochoa also defended the government’s decision to detain her at the VMMC while awaiting trial on a charge of electoral sabotage, saying this was in deference to her previous position as well as medical condition.
“Even convicted criminals, if they get sick, are sent to a medical facility.… We can’t deny the fact that she’s a former president. And our President agrees with this, because he’s giving due courtesy to a former president,” he said, explaining the government had to foot the bill for her detention because it’s a government hospital.
Her expenses for her own medical treatment, however, were outside of the government’s obligation, he added. “That’s personal to her.’’
He could not say if Arroyo would eventually be transferred to a regular jail facility.
Asked if Aquino would visit Arroyo—Arroyo visited deposed president Joseph Estrada at Veterans Memorial where he was also detained while facing plunder charges—Ochoa replied, “I don’t know about that.”
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