Aquino has no plan to visit Arroyo at VMMC—Palace
MANILA, Philippines — President Aquino will not be joining the line of visitors to the hospital suite of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Not just yet.
Malacañang said on Sunday a visit would not be a priority for the President even in the face of pressure from some quarters that he call on Arroyo.
“Let’s just say that it’s not a priority at present,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma in Filipino during his weekly press briefing aired over Radyo ng Bayan.
Coloma was asked about the possibility of a visit following the recent calls by high-profile religious and political leaders on Arroyo at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMCC) in Quezon City where she has been detained for more than a year.
Arroyo, now serving her second term as Pampanga representative, has been charged with plunder for the alleged misuse of P366 million in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office intelligence funds. She has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
“He has no ill intention against Mrs. Arroyo,” Coloma said, echoing a previous statement made by the President. Coloma insisted on the need, however, for an “accountability process.”
Coloma said Aquino did not deem as “proper” the idea of his visiting his predecessor.
“But we respect those who want to visit Mrs. Arroyo. That is their right,” he said.
Former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada, now the mayor of Manila, paid Arroyo a visit during the holidays. So did Bro. Eddie Villanueva and Bishop Leo Alconga of the Jesus Is Lord Movement.
Last Saturday, Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan was another surprise visitor at the VMMC. Cruz said he came to seek “understanding,” having been among Arroyo’s most vocal critics throughout her nine-year term.
On Sunday, Cruz renewed his call to allow the former leader to be placed under house arrest, calling her continued hospital detention the government’s vengeful persecution.
“She has to be allowed to go home. She is sick. She is losing weight. She looks pale,” Cruz told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview, although he described Arroyo during their meeting as being “very alert.”
Cruz noted that the administration’s treatment of the former president “has a semblance of vengeance which is not acceptable anymore.”
Cruz questioned the continued hospital detention of Arroyo while those supposedly facing more serious crimes like former Batangas governor Antonio Leviste was recently released on parole. Leviste was convicted by a Makati court in 2009 of killing his longtime aide six years ago.
“Tell me, what would this government lose if it allows the former president to go home? Prosecution is different from persecution,” Cruz said.