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Palace: Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo free to leave abroad for medical care

Malacañang on Thursday said it would not stand in the way of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo getting medical attention abroad if warranted, saying the martyred father of President Benigno Aquino III was accorded the same humanitarian gesture in 1980.

Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative, is facing a number of plunder cases in the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman. She has been in hospital for weeks in connection with a cervical spine disorder.

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“If the medical doctors find it necessary and the Arroyo family would request it from us, I think, as a humanitarian gesture, of course,” presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said when asked about Mr. Aquino’s position on allowing Arroyo to leave even with her pending cases.

Lacierda said the Aquino administration would not deprive Arroyo of getting the best medical attention if no appropriate facility or expertise was available in the country.

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Third surgery

Arroyo, who is reportedly not in critical condition, is scheduled to undergo a third surgery next week. She underwent cervical spine surgery on July 29 at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City. Titanium implants and bone substitute were used to correct her spine.

On Aug. 10, the former President underwent revision surgery because doctors had found that the neck implants had been dislodged due to what was first believed to be an infection.

Her main attending physician on Wednesday said the problem was not mainly due to infection but to her inherent bone problem.

The physician said Arroyo’s poor bone quality made it difficult for the screws of the implants to hold.

Marcos regime

Lacierda noted that the Marcos regime allowed its top political foe, former Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr., to seek treatment for his heart condition in the United States.

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“You must remember also that the President’s father was granted the same thing. So it would be in consonance with the President’s nature to, for humanitarian purposes, allow such travel abroad for medical reasons,” Lacierda said.

The former senator was shot dead when he returned to the Philippines on Aug. 21, 1983, sparking massive protests that culminated in the ouster of Marcos in the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution.

No letup

Lacierda, nonetheless, said there would be no letup in pursuing the cases against Arroyo.

“The investigation will continue,” he said. “She has already filed her counteraffidavit in the justice department so the investigation will continue,” he added.

The plunder charges filed against her with the justice department were the alleged nonremittance of capital gains taxes by the government to the national treasury for the sale of the old Iloilo airport, the alleged anomalous transfer of Overseas Workers Welfare Administration funds to PhilHealth and the alleged misuse of fertilizer funds in Arroyo’s presidential campaign in 2004.

Exemption

Arroyo only needs to ask for an exemption from the justice department if she intends to leave the country for medical attention, according to Lacierda. Arroyo is on the watch list of the Bureau of Immigration.

Asked how the government would guarantee that Arroyo would return to face the charges against her, Lacierda said: “We don’t know if we are going to require certain conditions for the travel. That’s not something that we have discussed yet.”

“The question is very basic: Will we allow her to travel abroad? The answer is, as a humanitarian gesture and if it is really required and recommended by the medical doctors, we will do so. We will allow it,” Lacierda said.

“But insofar as any requirements, any condition necessary for the grant that is something that we have not discussed yet,” he added.

Well-wisher

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. wished Arroyo well in her scheduled third surgery.

Belmonte said he just talked with the former President’s son, Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo, and conveyed his wish for the success of the surgery and her early recovery.

“I’ve conveyed to her son Dato, ‘Please, tell your mother that we wish her well. I told him that,” Belmonte said at a press conference. With a report from Cynthia D. Balana

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TAGS: Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo, Cervical Spine Surgery, Department of Justice, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, humanitarian gesture, medical attention, Office of the Ombudsman, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, plunder case, St. Luke’s medical center, titanium implants
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