Arroyo won’t be home for Christmas
She won’t be home for Christmas, but she won’t be alone.
Detained former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s request for a temporary house arrest during Christmas was denied by Pasay Judge Jesus Mupas in an order released Wednesday.
But Mupas allowed the Pampanga representative to have her immediate family stay over for Christmas and New Year’s at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) presidential suite, where she is detained on nonbailable electoral sabotage charges.
The judge immediately came for praise from Malacañang which said it was averse to any special treatment being given to the former President.
“The decision of the court is fair,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.
Arroyo was disappointed that the judge had denied her request for a Christmas furlough, according to court sheriff Rodel Buenviaje.
“Why am I not allowed?” Buenviaje quoted Arroyo assaying in Filipino. He said Arroyo looked sad and disappointed.
Buenviaje told reporters only an “aide’’ was with the former President when he went to see her with the judge’s order.
He said Arroyo was wearing a neck brace when she emerged from her room and offered her visitors coffee.
“She told us the lawyers will receive the copy [of the judge’s order], but I left a copy for her just the same because she is one of the respondents,’’ the sheriff said.
Mupas said he recognized the need to be among loved ones during the holidays and allowed Arroyo’s immediate family to visit her anytime from December 24 to December 26 noontime, and anytime from December 31 to January 2 noontime.
The judge’s legal researcher Felda Domingo explained that during these periods, the family is allowed to stay overnight in Arroyo’s hospital room.
Mupas said he was denying Arroyo’s request for a Christmas furlough to avoid “unnecessary security problems.”
The judge had in mind the brouhaha over Arroyo’s transfer from the St. Luke’s Hospital in Taguig to the VMMC in Quezon City, and was afraid the same thing could happen should she be allowed to go and stay in her La Vista home.
According to Mupas, the Quezon City subdivision’s residents might be inconvenienced by the security restrictions that would have to be set in place.
In the same order, Mupas also denied with finality Arroyo’s motion asking to be allowed to use cell phones and laptops in her hospital room, citing the Commission on Elections (Comelec) argument that precedent Supreme Court decisions have ruled that all prisoners, even those under preventive detention, cannot practice their profession while incarcerated.
Arroyo’s lawyers had argued that she needed the communications equipment for her to be able to discharge her duties as a member of Congress.
The judge, however, allowed Arroyo’s lawyers to use such equipment inside the hospital room.
Except for the Christmas furlough and the use of communications equipment, Mupas granted most of the requests made by Arroyo in the ad cautelam—meaning a document filed as a precaution—motion filed last Tuesday.
The motion had asked that Arroyo be allowed to leave her hospital room for at least an hour everyday to take in the sun and exercise, attend early morning Mass at the hospital chapel, allowed the use of a radio and television, and that the allowable period of visits be extended from Tuesday to Sunday.
Mupas said he granted all these other requests as the Comelec had raised no objections.
The judge left the visiting hours issue up to the discretion of the security officers at the VMMC.
This leaves pending only one motion of Arroyo’s, the one asking that the warrant of arrest for her arrest be recalled because there is no probable cause to hold her liable for electoral sabotage. The hearing for the motion has been set for January 9, Domingo said.
While Arroyo has succeeded in getting most of her requests granted, the same cannot be said for her coaccused, former Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos.
“We were supposed to hear his motion for house arrest and his motion to post bail last Friday, but it was overtaken by his camp’s motion to inhibit. The court ran out of time,” said Domingo.
A hearing on all of Abalos’ motions has been set for January 9.
Last Friday, Abalos’ camp filed a motion requesting Mupas to inhibit himself from the case, citing the attempt at bribery by two lawyers claiming to represent the judge.
An angry Mupas ordered Abalos and his counsel to show cause not to be held in contempt for making the accusation.
Domingo said Abalos’ camp filed their comment late Tuesday afternoon, in which they “denied malicious intent” against the judge or the court in filing their motion to inhibit.
“We did not accuse Judge Mupas of anything,” said Abalos’ lawyer, Brigido Dulay, in a statement.
“My client only wants to make sure that his case will be heard fairly and impartially,” the lawyer said.
Abalos remains in detention at the Southern Police District (SPD) headquarters in Taguig, where he is expected to spend Christmas and New Year’s.
Jenny Tecson, the SPD public information chief, said Abalos’ family had discussed visitation hours during Christmas with the court, but that she has yet to see or hear a formal request. With Nancy Carvajal and Norman Bordadora
Originally posted at 05:56 pm | Wednesday, December 21, 2011