An arrest warrant has been issued for the former Philippine president, Gloria Arroyo,Â amid aÂ legal battle to decide whether the former president, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is free to travel abroad.
The country’s supreme courtÂ ruled on FridayÂ that ArroyoÂ should beÂ allowed to go overseas, but just hours laterÂ a lower courtÂ issued an arrest warrant for her on the basis of vote-tampering charges filed earlier in the day by theÂ country’s Commission on Election.
Al Jazeera’s Marga Ortigas, reporting from Manila, the capital,Â said: “The arrest warrant has beenÂ successfully served and ArroyoÂ is now officially under police custody, but will be allowed to stay in hospital, with a guard stationed outside her door from now on.”
The election-fraud charges, which carry a penalty of 40 years imprisonment, were formallyÂ filed at the Pasay Regional Trial Court in Manila.
Sixto Brillante, the Elections Commission chairman,Â confirmedÂ that he hadÂ also asked forÂ a court order barring Arroyo’s travel.
Travel plan foiled
Arroyo tried to leave the country with her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, on Tuesday,Â saying sheÂ was seeking medical treatment abroad for a bone ailment, but was stopped atÂ the Manila airport because she was still under investigation.
She has denied any wrongdoing and says she does not intend to flee justice..
The supreme court hadÂ found the government’s travel ban unconstitutional because Arroyo and her husbandÂ hadÂ not yet been charged with any crime.
But the government defied the court and she was prevented from boarding herÂ flight to Singapore. Arroyo then checked into a hospital in Manila.
She had been driven to the airport in an ambulance, wearing a neck brace toÂ support her spine, which she says is weakened by a rare bone disease.
TheÂ confrontation prompted supreme court threats to throw government officialsÂ in jail for contempt for refusing to allow Arroyo to fly.
InÂ giving their ruling on Friday, the supreme court judges said thatÂ their earlierÂ decision that overturned the government’s travel ban onÂ her remained in effect.
“Until another court issues an order, the TRO holds,”Â Midas Marquez, a court spokesman,Â said, referring to the temporary restraining order handed down on Tuesday.
The judgesÂ also ordered Leila de Lima, the justice secretary who had ordered Manila airport officials to stop Arroyo from boarding her flight, to explain why she should not be in thrown in jail.
“Justice Secretary de Lima … [has] 10 days to show why she should not be held in contempt of court,” Marquez said.
He noted thatÂ the offence was punishable by six to 10 months in prison.
However, de Lima insistsÂ the governmentÂ did not violateÂ any law and that Arroyo must be stopped from fleeing possible prosecution.
State prosecutors were evaluating evidence in several complaints ofÂ large-scale corruption as well as election fraud against the Arroyo couple, de Lima said.
Arroyo said through aÂ spokeswoman that she mayÂ attempt to leave theÂ Philippines again on Friday.
“If the doctors allow it, it’s an option,” Elena Bautista Horn Horn told GMA television.
“We will hold them [the government] responsible if something bad happens toÂ my boss.”
Arroyo, 64, ruled the Philippines for more than nine years until last year,Â when she won a seat in the lower house of parliament.
Benigno Aquino, the current Philippine president,Â won a landslide presidential election on anÂ anti-corruption platform and hasÂ pledged to bring Arroyo to justice, but hasÂ faced repeated setbacks to his campaign.
In one of the most prominent blows, the supreme court ruled in DecemberÂ last year that a “truth commission” that Aquino set up specifically to investigateÂ Arroyo was unconstitutional.
This post was submitted by Aljazeera / IM.