Palace: No special privileges for GMA

- Aurea Calica () - December 4, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should not enjoy special privileges while in detention, Malacañang asserted yesterday.

Malacañang reminded the former leader that the government would only cover the basic services at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) and not all of her medical expenses.

“As a general rule, when someone is a detention prisoner, it is recognized that rights can be curtailed,” presidential deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte said.

Valte also said it would be up to the courts to decide on the request of Arroyo’s lawyers to allow her to stay a little longer at St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) to recover from a stomach ailment.

Valte added they were expecting a smooth transfer of Arroyo to VMMC in Quezon City from SLMC in Taguig City.

Valte said Malacañang is opposed to the petition of Arroyo’s lawyers asking Pasay City Judge Jesus Mupas to reconsider the order prohibiting the former president from using mobile phones and computers while confined under police custody at VMMC.

“This is ordinary. If we are a detention prisoner, these kinds of amenity or luxury are prohibited, we know that, even reporters covering the police beat know that,” Valte said.

“When you are caught and you are placed in jail, even if you are detention prisoner, these things are prohibited,” Valte said over radio dzRB.

She explained that cellular phones were not allowed in detention.

“Whether you are a detention prisoner or you are a convict serving your serving time, these are prohibited in detention facilities,” Valte said.

She said it would be up to the court to determine if Arroyo could be an exception being a legislator.

“The court will decide on the parameters of her detention, where and what circumstances surrounding the detention in VMMC will be considered,” Valte said.

Valte also said the claims of the Arroyo camp had been confusing when asking for something.

“We cannot understand the Arroyo camp because sometimes they say the former president is supposed to be an ordinary citizen whose rights must be protected, now, since she is a congresswoman (she is entitled to certain privileges), we don’t know anymore. It will be the court that will decide on those matters,” she said.

While the matter was already with the court, “generally when a person is a detention prisoner, your rights are curtailed obviously,” Valte said.

“That is accepted by everyone. If you remember there are news reports about the families of the victims of suspects behind sensational crimes complaining about the use of cellphones, why there was special treatment after they (suspects) were arrested and put to jail,” Valte said.

Valte added the concerned authorities were already prepared for the transfer of Arroyo to VMMC and that there was no reason to worry about her safety and security.

She said the Philippine National Police (PNP) under Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo already came up with a scheme for the transfer.

Only utilities

While Robredo had announced that the government would shoulder the expenses of Arroyo’s detention at the VMMC, this would only cover the utilities and not all the medical expenditures of the former leader, Valte said.

But Valte said she was not aware as to where the funds would specifically come from this time since it was the PNP that shouldered the expenses of former President Joseph Estrada when he was placed under hospital arrest.

“The government will shoulder basic expenses but anything over and above the basic services, they (Arroyos) will be the ones to shoulder it,” she said.

Valte said the various items under basic services were specifically listed under the rules.

Valte said the Arroyos could also go to the court every time they have an appeal, especially in terms of medical equipment that the patient would need.

She said the judge had conducted an ocular inspection of VMMC and assessed the best detention place for Arroyo in terms of facilities given her medical condition.

Former president Estrada also said the courts have to decide whether to allow Arroyo to have access to mobile phones and computers.

“The issue on laptop and cellphone (for Arroyo) is in the discretion of the court,” Estrada said.

Estrada said he and his son Sen. Jinggoy Estrada were in a similar situation when they were incarcerated from 2001 to October 2007 while facing charges of plunder.

Estrada said the policemen assigned to man him and Jinggoy were very strict in implementing the “no cellphone” or other communication gadgets policy against them.

“Even my visitors were not allowed to enter my detention carrying cellphones. There was an incident when one of my visitors managed to smuggle in cellphone in my detention, the police assigned to man us (with Jinggoy) were all relieved. That was how strict they were to us when it comes to cellphones and other communication gadgets during our incarceration,” Estrada said.


With the VMMC facility of Arroyo now officially “restricted,” the police yesterday conducted “paneling” of the presidential suite.

Even as the presidential suite is already detached from the rest of those inside the VMMC compound, the alley leading to it was also closed yesterday morning as policemen started installing security facilities.

“The paneling is done to detect any bombs and other contraband,” said Senior Superintendent Ranier Idio, deputy director for operations of the Quezon City Police District.

According to Idio, they have installed “booms” to act as blockade for vehicles at different points at the hospital.

“We are establishing these physical barriers to restrict the area from authorized persons,” Idio said.

The location of the 150-square-meter presidential suite is at the back of the VMMC compound. It is a few minutes’ drive away from the VMMC gate on North Avenue.

Before yesterday, the area could still be accessed by the media, with reporters managing to get to the door of the actual suite.

But yesterday, VMMC guards have blocked the alley leading to it with policemen setting up camp on the walkway.

Idio said there will be control points inside the hospital compound that will be manned by policemen 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

“Starting today, we are ready for the transfer anytime,” Idio declared.

Since yesterday, a “skeletal police team” has been set up there ready to be augmented any time higher authorities and Arroyo’s camp decide to transfer her from St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City.

The former president’s camp, while saying they would follow whatever the court orders, has a pending appeal for Arroyo’s continued stay at SLMC.

During yesterday’s paneling, K-9 units from the Regional Public Safety Battalion of the National Capital Region Police Office were deployed to the area. They were supported by the Explosives and Ordnance Division personnel of the QCPD.

According to Idio, the presidential suite would be turned over to its security group commander - Superintendent Audie Madrideo – following yesterday’s paneling.

Madrideo is the station commander of QCPD-Station 2, whose area of responsibility covers the VMMC. –With Reinir Padua, Jose Rodel Clapano

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