No Xmas at home for detained ex-Philippine leader

By Jim Gomez

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 21 2011 4:45 a.m. MST

MANILA, Philippines — A Philippine court rejected on Wednesday requests by arrested ex-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to celebrate Christmas at home and use her cellphone and computer in detention, underscoring recent stunning reversals for a woman once considered among the world's most powerful.

Judge Jesus Mupas of the Pasay Regional Trial Court cited security reasons for denying Arroyo's request to leave a military hospital where she is detained on electoral fraud charges. She wanted to celebrate Christmas and New Year at her upscale home in the capital.

But she obtained small concessions. Mupas allowed her family, children and grandchildren to celebrate the holidays with her in her heavily guarded hospital suite from Dec. 24 to 26 and Dec. 31 to Jan. 2. She will also be allowed to watch TV, listen to the radio, attend Mass and get an hour of sunshine each day.

"The court is not inclined to grant (Arroyo) a Christmas furlough," Mupas said in his order. He said he was allowing her family to visit because "the court is fully aware of the fact that everybody wants to be with his loved ones during Christmas."

Court sheriff Rodelio Buenviaje said Arroyo was upset when he relayed the order to her.

"We are saddened but we will follow," Arroyo lawyer Ferdinand Topacio told reporters. "I was just hoping that the judge will see through his heart that this is a season for unity and forgiveness."

Arroyo's Nov. 18 arrest curtailed her rights even though she remains a member of the House of Representatives, Mupas said.

Mupas had ordered Arroyo's arrest on Nov. 18 in her hospital room, where she had sought treatment for a bone ailment, on suspicion of ordering the rigging of 2007 senatorial elections to favor her candidates. She has denied any wrongdoing and has hired a battery of lawyers.

Last month, the Supreme Court lifted a travel ban on her, and she attempted to leave the country with her husband. President Benigno Aquino III's justice secretary, however, defied the Supreme Court order and directed airport authorities to stop her from leaving, fearing she might try to escape from prosecution.

Aquino, who won election on a promise to uproot corruption, blames Arroyo for a decade of graft and corruption scandals that eroded public trust in government and held back foreign investment.

Arroyo, however, accused her successor of resorting to "demagoguery to completely destroy my reputation."

Aquino has accused Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, a former Arroyo chief of staff whom she appointed shortly before her term ended last year, of obstructing Arroyo's prosecution. Although Corona has denied favoring Arroyo in his rulings, Aquino's allies in the House of Representatives impeached the chief justice last week.

Arroyo, a 64-year-old former economics professor and daughter of an ex-president, survived four opposition impeachment bids and four attempted coups during her nine stormy years in power.

Arroyo once landed near the top of a Forbes magazine list of the 100 most powerful women in the world.

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