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Belmonte urges easing restrictions on GMA visitors

Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - March 12, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. called yesterday for the easing of visitor restrictions on former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo – at least for her birthday on April 5 – at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC), where she is detained.

Belmonte made the call as Arroyo’s lawyers appealed for a three-day furlough to celebrate her 67th birthday in her hometown in Lubao, Pampanga before the Sandiganbayan, where her plunder case is lodged.

He said the House of Representatives cannot intervene in Arroyo’s case as the matter is with the anti-graft court.

“Our official stand has always been that this is the exclusive jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan and the political considerations emanating from the Congress should not infringe on the authority of the Sandiganbayan,” Belmonte told reporters.

“My own view is that they should allow visitors more than the usual constraints to at least visit with her for her birthday, and the one or three days before and after that day,” he said.

He, however, said he would not comment on her petition to be allowed to visit her hometown.

Last year, Arroyo spent the Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve alone as the Philippine National Police (PNP) imposed tighter restrictions on her visitors, barring immediate family members from staying with her overnight at the VMMC.

Her chief of staff, lawyer Raul Lambino, said under the new PNP protocol, all visitors cannot stay beyond 9:30 p.m. in her hospital room.

The new restrictions also barred her husband Jose Miguel from making conjugal visits, limited her sun time to one hour a day, and prohibited her from attending mass at the VMMC chapel.

Arroyo is only allowed to hear mass inside her hospital room. The lawmaker is detained on charges of plunder. The Sandiganbayan has yet to start formal trial on her case.

BELMONTE CHRISTMAS EVE AND NEW YEAR GLORIA MACAPAGAL-ARROYO HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES JOSE MIGUEL PAMPANGA REP PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE RAUL LAMBINO SANDIGANBAYAN SPEAKER FELICIANO BELMONTE JR.
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