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5th plunder rap filed as GMA prepares for 'risky' surgery

MANILA, Philippines - Another plunder complaint was filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today as her doctors prepare her for a "risky" spine surgery.

The plunder complaint was filed before the Office of the Ombudsman by Akbayan party-list spokesperson Risa Hontiveros, former Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and activist Jimmy Regalario, around 10 a.m. today.

In their 39-page complaint, the complainants filed charges for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and malversation of public funds against Arroyo.

The complaint was based on the Senate's hearing on the misuse of funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, particularly the allegedly misappropriated P325-million intelligence fund of the lottery agency during the time of the former president.

Also charged were former executive secretary Eduardo Ermita, former PCSO general manager rosario Uriarte, former Commission on Audit chairman Reynaldo Villar and former PCSO board members Sergio Valencia, Jose Taruc, Raymundo Roquero, Ma. Fatima Valdes, and Manoling Morato.

The complaint was the fifth filed against the former president since she stepped down from Malacañang last year. One of the four other plunder complaints was also based on the allegedly misused PCSO intelligence funds, which was filed by Bayan Muna representatives Teddy Casiño and Neri Colmenares.

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The filing of the fifth complaint came a day after President Benigno Aquino III announced in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) that he has chosen former Supreme Court justice Conchita Carpio-Morales to sit as the new Ombudsman.

Minutes after the filing, the attending physician of Arroyo announced to reporters outside the St. Luke's Medical Center in Taguig City that the former president will undergo a spine surgery because of a compressed nerve in her spine.

"The surgery itself is risky. It involves a very sensitive area in the spinal cord," Dr. Juliet Cervantes declared.

Cervantes said that the nerve that will be the subject of the surgery affects the movement of the hands and the respiratory muscles.

Arroyo was rushed to the hospital minutes before President Aquino delivered his SONA yesterday.

Cervantes said that Arroyo's "cervical radiculopathy" recurred, which puts her in danger. The doctor said that based on tests, the former president's hands are already showing weakness.

The doctor added that the former president's severe neck pain recurred probably because of her long hours of work as a congresswoman. The doctor said that they have been advising the former president to take a long break, but she continued to work long hours.

Another cause cited by the doctor was emotional stress.

Cervantes said that if they do not subject the former president to a surgery, she may be paralyzed. She said that Arroyo is currently undergoing "work ups" to prepare her for the surgery, which may take place within the week.

The doctor said that the former president would have to take a long rest after the surgery before she undergoes a physical rehabilitation.

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