GMA turns 67 with kin, allies

Reinir Padua and Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - April 6, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo celebrated her 67th birthday yesterday with family and friends who visited her at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC).

Arroyo started her day with a mass inside her hospital room attended by members of her family, including her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo and their grandchildren.

Many of her friends, relatives and other well-wishers, who started arriving at 9 a.m., brought food.

Lawyer Raul Lambino, Arroyo’s chief of staff, said her sister Cielo Macapagal-Salgado, brother Art Macapagal, some childhood friends and high school classmates also came.

Former lawmakers Prospero Pichay and Danilo Suarez; former Cabinet secretaries Arthur Yap, Gary Olivar, Esperanza Cabral, Patricia Sto. Tomas, Rigoberto Tiglao and Ricardo Saludo; and Arroyo’s lawyers also arrived.

Some of her supporters from Pampanga also came and wished her good health and an end to her legal woes.

The Sandiganbayan allowed the Pampanga lawmaker to spend three days with family and friends to celebrate her birthday.

On Friday, Arroyo’s family stayed with her at the hospital’s presidential suite.

The Sandiganbayan granted the lawmaker’s request to allow her family to stay at the VMMC from 9 a.m. of Friday to 9:30 p.m. today.

Arroyo’s lawyer Modesto Ticman Jr. said the Pampanga lawmaker was “very happy and excited” to be with her family and friends.


Birthday wish

A close female friend of Arroyo said the former president wanted “a better life for the people and a more peaceful nation” when asked what she wished for on her birthday.

“She thanked God for her family and blessings,” Lambino said.

He said Arroyo also thanked the Sandiganbayan for allowing her family to stay for three days, and the Philippine National Police (PNP) for allowing her to receive many guests.

Only around 50 people were initially allowed by the PNP to enter the hospital room based on a pre-screened list, but more were allowed to briefly stay in the foyer.

With the exception of Arroyo’s family, visitors were not allowed to stay beyond 7 p.m.


No legal basis

Meanwhile, Antonio Abad, former dean of the Far Eastern University’s Institute of Law, told a news forum yesterday that there is no legal basis to detain Arroyo, saying the plunder complaint against her is weak.

Abad said there was no evidence presented to the Sandiganbayan that Arroyo amassed or pocketed money.

Arroyo is facing plunder charges for her alleged involvement in the misuse of funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) during her incumbency.

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