‘UN body: Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s detention arbitrary, illegal’
An international human rights lawyer has said the hospital detention of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is a form of political persecution, according to a legal counsel for the former president.
In a press conference on Thursday, Arroyo’s lawyer Lorenzo Gadon told reporters of the development of the human rights complaint filed by his client before the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
Arroyo is represented at the UN by renowned human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, wife of US actor George Clooney.
Citing a supposed email by Clooney, Gadon said the UN working group had found Arroyo’s hospital detention arbitrary and violative of the international law on human rights.
Clooney also purportedly said the body found Arroyo’s detention for plunder politically motivated.
“Amal Clooney mentioned something like political pressure. The UN working group recognized that the charges against Mrs. Arroyo were politically motivated since she’s detained as a result of her exercise to take part in government,” Gadon said.
“The UN opinion finds that the detention of former President Arroyo was arbitrary and illegal under international law because the Sandiganbayan court failed to take into account her individual circumstances when it repeatedly denied her bail,” said Clooney’s email to Gadon which was furnished to the media.
“Further, the working group recognized that the charges against Mrs. Arroyo were politically motivated, since she is detained ‘as a result of the exercise of her right to take part in government and the conduct of public affairs’ and ‘because of her political … opinion,’” the email read.
Clooney supposedly said the UN working group asked the Sandiganbayan to reconsider its decision denying Arroyo’s bail “and to accord Ms Arroyo with an enforceable right to compensation … for the deprivation of liberty which already occurred.’”
Clooney also told Gadon that the UN working group recommended to the Philippine government to ensure a fair trial without delay and consistent with international human rights law.
The UN body also noted the Philippine government’s tendency to defy court rulings, as was the case in 2011 when Arroyo was prevented by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima from leaving the country even though the travel ban against her was lifted by the Supreme Court to allow her medical treatment abroad.
Gadon said the Philippine government, as well as the Sandiganbayan and the Ombudsman, should comply with the United Nations ruling calling for Arroyo’s immediate release from detention.
He said Arroyo’s camp would seek anew for bail, this time citing the UN ruling.
“The Philippine government will lose face if we will not abide by the internationally accepted principles of law,” Gadon said.
This is the latest in the complaint filed before the UN after Clooney asked the world body to quickly act on the supposed political persecution of Arroyo, who has been under hospital detention for three years now for plunder.
Interviewed at the sidelines of the plenary debates over the judiciary budget in the House of Representatives, Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang said the antigraft court only acted based on evidence when it denied Arroyo bail.
Tang maintained that the court did not violate any international law.
“I don’t think the court violated any international law. The court has always observed all the processes that are in place in the country … (Arroyo) filed the petition for bail, that was heard, evidence was presented, and after due evaluation the court came up with its resolution,” Tang said.
Tang said she was confident of the division’s integrity on the decision, and that only a “radical change” in the case information could overhaul the resolution denying Arroyo’s bail and her demurrer of evidence following the UN ruling.
“I believe the judiciousness of the members of the division. If there may be a change or radical change in the circumstances, perhaps that can serve as a ground for a change in the resolution. But if there is no significant change, I would believe that the decision will stay,” Tang said.
Sandiganbayan first division chair Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz said his division only relied on evidence in denying Arroyo’s bail.
“We follow existing jurisprudence on the matter. We based our resolutions on the existing laws and jurisprudence … Our mandate is not to be influenced by any public opinion or whatever. We should base our resolution on the facts and evidences of the case, that’s all,” De la Cruz said.
Arroyo is detained over alleged plunder for using P366 million in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office intelligence funds for personal gain from 2008 to 2010.
The former president is confined at Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) as she claims to be suffering from cervical spondylosis, a degenerative disease of the bones and cartilage of the neck.
Arroyo also complains of “generalized body weakness, persistent pain over the nuchal and left shoulder with numbness of both hands and frequent episodes of choking,” according to VMMC.
Gadon said Arroyo had been suffering from new kinds of sickness.
“Bagong sakit itong nararamdaman ni GMA aside from the previous illnesses she’s already suffering,” Gadon said, adding Arroyo was suffering from paralysis on the left arm. Marc Jayson Cayabyab/CB/RC
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