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GMA to seek New Year furlough

MANILA, Philippines - Lawyers of detained former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will file a motion for reconsideration before Pasay City Regional Trial Court Judge Jesus Mupas who denied her request for a Christmas and New Year furlough to celebrate the holidays at her residence in La Vista, Quezon City.

Defense lawyer Jose Flaminiano said because of the time constraint, the former President will definitely celebrate Christmas at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) where she is detained.

“But we still hope that a New Year furlough will be granted. We will file a motion for reconsideration for Judge Mupas to allow the former President to spend her New Year at home,” said Flaminiano.

He said they are hopeful that the court will reconsider its earlier decision rejecting a Christmas and New Year furlough for the former president.

The motion for reconsideration will include the use of cellphones and laptop computer at her presidential suite at the VMMC in Quezon City.

Mupas had also rejected Arroyo’s request to use her cellphone and laptop at the VMMC where she is under hospital arrest pending her trial for electoral sabotage.

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Mupas had issued last Nov. 18 a warrant of arrest for Arroyo after the Commission on Elections (Comelec) filed electoral sabotage charges against her, former Maguindanao provincial elections supervisor Lintang Bedol, and former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. for allegedly rigging results in senatorial elections in Maguindanao in the 2007 polls.

Flaminiano said the judge denied the motions for Arroyo’s Christmas furlough from Dec. 23 to Jan 2, 2012.

The Comelec opposed the defense motion for a Christmas furlough arguing that being a detainee, Arroyo’s rights are now limited.

Mupas, in his order denying the Christmas and New Year furlough, said that for security reasons the court is not inclined to grant Arroyo a Christmas furlough.

He said the court is mindful of what happened during the transfer from St. Lukes Medical Center in Taguig where she was earlier treated for a rare spinal disorder, to the VMMC wherein officials of the Department of Interior and Local Governments and the camp of Arroyo ended up blaming each other for the confusion on what mode of transportation will be used.

“Besides, this would avoid possible unnecessary security problems and complaints of residents of La Vista who would be subjected to security restrictions once Arroyo is allowed to stay at the exclusive subdivision for the holidays.”

On the use of cellphone and laptop, the court, quoting a Supreme Court decision, said that all prisoners under preventive detention or serving final sentence cannot practice their profession nor engage in any business or occupation nor hold office, elective or appointive.

However, Mupas granted the motions for the use of radio and television and an hour of walking outside the hospital room for sunshine, and also for her to attend mass at the VMMC chapel.

The court also allowed the lawyers of Arroyo to bring their laptop computers and cellphones inside the VMMC.

Mupas said he had to turn down Arroyo’s requests for security reasons.

But he stressed the court is allowing Arroyo’s family members, including her grandchildren, to stay with her in her VMMC suite from Dec. 24 until noon the following day and from Dec. 31 until noon of Jan. 2, 2012.

“The confinement of Cong. Arroyo has constitutional foundation wherein its purpose is for the administration of justice, which cannot be countenanced, otherwise it would be an injury to our penal system,” Mupas said.

Mupas has set for Jan. 9 the hearing on the motion to recall the warrant for Arroyo’s arrest.

Meanwhile, Court Sheriff Rodel Buenviaje said Arroyo was visibly disappointed when told of the court order.

“Naturally, she wants to spend Christmas at home. She was wondering why she was not allowed,” he said.

He said only an aide was with Arroyo when she was handed a copy of the order. He said hospital and police authorities were also given copies of the order. – With Paolo Romero

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