Gloria Arroyo’s doctors at odds with her lawyers
Doctors attending to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo reportedly refused at one point to sign a medical certificate prepared by her lawyers.
Arroyo’s physicians at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City were torn between adhering to the doctor-patient privilege and disclosing the actual state of her health, a high government official said. But he did not name names.
One of the doctors even suggested that Arroyo, now a representative of Pampanga, be moved to another hospital, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the case.
“GMA is already fine. But the doctors are facing a dilemma on whether they can release this information because they are being prevented [from doing so],” the official told the Inquirer.
The official did not say exactly what was in the medical certificate that the doctors had refused to sign, and only said it was drawn up by her lawyers to convince authorities that she should be allowed to seek medical treatment abroad.
Conferences with Arroyo’s attending physicians at St. Luke’s indicated that her health had “significantly improved,” according to a report submitted by a police medical officer to Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo.
Some of Arroyo’s complaints noted in the report, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer, are pain in her lower back and left knee, weakness of both feet, and a “weak neck,” wrote Senior Supt. Hermenegilda Salangad, medical section head of the Philippine National Police-National Capital Region Police Office.
Arroyo is afflicted with a bone ailment.
In the nick of time on Wednesday, Arroyo’s legal team formalized its request to have her detained in a medical facility while her electoral sabotage case is being heard by Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 112.
Lead defense counsel Jose Flaminiano said in a phone interview that the legal team filed the motion at the court just before its office closed on Wednesday at 5 p.m.
Flaminiano said the request was backed by a medical report from Arroyo’s doctors recommending her continued stay at St. Luke’s.
Also on Wednesday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) asked the Supreme Court to summon Arroyo’s attending physicians—Juliet Gopez-Cervantes, Mario Ver and Roberto Mirasol—to testify today (Friday) at the oral arguments on her petition questioning the ban on her travel abroad.
Before noon Thursday, Pasay RTC Branch 112 Judge Jesus Mupas signed the subpoenas for Cervantes, Ver and Mirasol in response to the motion filed by the Commission on Election (Comelec) investigation and prosecution division chief Ma. Juana Valeza.
The subpoenas were received by the three doctors at St. Luke’s in Taguig.
“They are ordered to appear and testify before, and submit documents to the court as to the medical condition of Mrs. Arroyo on [Friday] morning,” Clerk of Court Joel Pelicano told the Inquirer.
Pelicano said there were five issues up for resolution in Friday’s hearing, based on the motions filed by the parties—the urgent omnibus motion concerning the watch-list order on Arroyo and her husband; an urgent motion to suspend proceedings, based on the pending petition filed before the Supreme Court; an omnibus motion for determination of Arroyo’s medical condition; a motion to quash; and an extremely urgent motion to put Arroyo under hospital arrest.
In her report, Salangad said she conferred with Cervantes, Arroyo’s lead physician, on Nov. 19, 21 and 22 to monitor the former President’s condition, and also visited and interviewed the patient and reviewed the latter’s medical records.
She said that in her “overall assessment,” Arroyo’s “present medical status has significantly improved except for the complaints of pain [in] low back, left knee, weakness of both feet and weak neck.”
Among Salangad’s “pertinent findings” are:
Arroyo was seen lying on her back on the bed, wearing a Minerva vest, no IV fluid, but still with plaster on site of her previous IVF on her left arm, conscious, coherent and not in cardio-respiratory distress. There was no observable sign of pain but complained of pain in low back and left leg and “tingling” of toes when asked, slight weakness of both feet, no complaints of diarrhea and with blood pressure of 120/80.
Arroyo is suffering from anorexia probably caused by stress, and needs physical rehabilitation/therapy for her neck, low back and left knee.
The low back pain is secondary to nerve root compression from a foraminal stenosis at L5-S1, as confirmed by an MRI done on Nov. 21.
The left knee pain, of one-day duration, is due to patello-femoral osteoarthritis.
The pain in the low back and left knee is being treated “conservatively,” using physical therapy and oral pain relievers. She is on 48-hour complete bed rest.
Recent lab results show that Arroyo’s intact parathyroid hormone (dated Nov. 20) is within normal limits, and, thus, her hypoparathyroidism is “resolving.” Calcium, magnesium and vitamin D supplements are being maintained.
Neck X-ray shows that her cervical spine implants are in place and show no sign of loosening, and with increased density of her bone graft. Repeat X-ray is scheduled on Dec. 8.
Salangad said Arroyo had been advised to change the Minerva brace for a hard cervical collar (Miami J) to prevent stiffening and atrophy of neck muscles. She said continued physical rehabilitation therapy had been recommended.
She quoted Cervantes as saying that Arroyo was sensitive to many kinds of medications, especially antibiotics.
Of public interest
A Philippine Medical Association (PMA) expressed support for the directive that Arroyo’s doctors explain the actual state of her health.
“The health condition of a public official is of public interest. Since it is a matter of public interest, [the court and the Senate] have the power and authority to summon the doctors to disclose the medical condition of a public official,” Dr. Leo Olarte, a member of the PMA board of governors representing Manila, told reporters.
Olarte said a public and on-the-record disclosure of Arroyo’s true health would also be “for the common good,” especially now that it had something to do with the case on the right to travel her camp had filed in the Supreme Court.
He said Arroyo’s health had been “somewhat hazy,” especially after her legal spokesperson, Raul Lambino, said her ailment had begun affecting her lower spine and that she would be needing another operation.
“That should be explained through a medical bulletin by the attending physician. If only the lawyer would speak on her medical condition, is not clear, and credibility might be lacking. That’s why it’s really correct [that the court will be asking her doctors],” he said.
Olarte also said that he “believes in the expertise” of Arroyo’s doctors, and that they had been performing “a job well done” in treating her.
“I am appealing to them to regularly [issue] a medical bulletin so that the people will know the real condition of the patient. There will be no more speculation because there will be a medical bulletin,” he added.
Malacañang welcomed the appearance of Arroyo’s doctors at the Pasay City court.
“We welcome that. We would like to hear from them,” said President Aquino’s spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
Lacierda reiterated that Arroyo’s doctors were in the “best position” to determine the actual state of the former President’s health and answer whether she was really in a life-threatening condition. With reports from Miko Morelos, Jeannette I. Andrade, Jerome Aning and Christine O. Avendaño