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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo transferred to VMMC

Left: Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo  smiling
as she poses for the first time without her neck brace
inside her suite at St. Luke's Medical Center in Taguig
City. Right: Gloria Arroyo with the neck brace. The photo
was taken as Arroyo prepares to be transferred to the
Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City.
The PNP (Philippine National Police) safely transferred former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from the St. Luke's Medical Center (SLMC) in Taguig to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City yesterday afternoon.

A white coaster carrying Mrs. Arroyo left the SLMC around 3:30 p.m. and arrived at the VMMC around 4:08 p.m., heavily escorted by a number of police vehicles.

Mrs. Arroyo, who has been detained on electoral sabotage charges, will continue her hospital arrest at the government-owned medical facility, which has been put under heavy police guard.

Arroyo said in a television interview on Thursday that the charges against her are all "demagoguery." She accused President Benigno Aquino III of trying to destroy her reputation.

She is charged with ordering the rigging of 2007 congressional elections but said her conscience is clear.

At the VMMC, Mrs. Arroyo will stay in a presidential suite and would be attended to by the government-owned hospital's doctors, Vicky Javier and Martha Nucum.

The presidential suite was previously used by former President Joseph Estrada during his hospital arrest after being detained on plunder charges in 2001.

Dr. Nona dela Fuente-Legaspi, director of the VMMC, said that the camp of the former president may opt to hire private doctors, but they would have to get to court for permission.

The transfer finally happened after hours of squabble on which mode of transportation should be used in moving the former president to the government hospital.

The PNP had preferred air transfer, but it was shelved due to worsening weather condition in Metro Manila brought about by a low pressure near Palawan.

As the PNP insisted to fly Mrs. Arroyo to the VMMC, her lawyers and spokespersons went out protesting before the media.

Elena Bautista-Horn, main spokesperson of the former president, said earlier that they suspect that the transfer was deliberately delayed by the government to give anti-Arroyo protesters more time to arrive at the VMMC ahead of Mrs. Arroyo's arrival at the hospital.

Horn said that Mrs. Arroyo was afraid to fly in bad weather, citing a traumatic experience when she was still the president.

She said that they also saw nothing wrong with land transfer, as they see no possible security threat to the president. She even go as far as asserting that it's even okay to travel on taxi.

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo had denied the claim. He said that the PNP was just considering the security and safety of the former president and other people in the convoy. Robredo added that Horn's statement of using a taxi as means of transport for Arroyo shows lack of concern towards her boss.

The camp of the former president earlier claimed that there was a plot to kill the former president, but Horn clarified that the information did not include an ambush.

Malacañang, meanwhile, said that it was not correct to say that the transfer was delayed since the Judge Jesus Mupas of the Pasay Regional Trial Court, who hears the electoral sabotage case of Mrs. Arroyo, did not mention a specific time of transfer in his order. The Malacañang also asked the camp of former President Macapagal-Arroyo, to calm down and try not to make the transfer of the lawmaker to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) into an "airport drama part two."

Malacañang spokesperson, Ricky Carandang, said that what's important was that Mrs. Arroyo be moved to the VMMC anytime today (Dec. 9).

Mrs. Arroyo was originally ordered by Judge Mupas to transfer to the VMMC on Tuesday, but it was extended yesterday due to concerns on the former president's health condition.

Mrs. Arroyo has been on hospital arrest since Mupas ordered her arrested on an electoral sabotage charge last November 18.

Arroyo's transfer delayed by bad weather

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at VMMC.
The bad weather in Metro Manila delayed the transfer of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from the St. Luke's Medical Center (SLMC) in Taguig City to the Veteran's Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City.

Chief Superintendent Miguel Laurel, deputy regional director for administration of the Metro Manila police, said this morning that the eight-vehicle plus four-motorcycle convoy that will transfer Mrs. Arroyo to the VMMC is already on standby.

Laurel said that the team will start the transfer as soon as the weather in Metro Manila clears.

"The convoy is ready. We are just waiting for the weather to clear," he said without confirming the route the convoy will take from St. Luke's to the VMMC.

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA) said that Metro Manila and several parts of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao will experience scattered rain showers and thunderstorms due to a low pressure area near Palawan province.

Laurel also did not confirm which mode of transport will be used for the actual transfer of the former president.

In a press conference outside the SLMC, spokespersons of Mrs. Arroyo protested the delay in the transfer of the former president.

Elena Bautista-Horn, main spokesperson of Mrs. Arroyo, said that the Pampanga congresswoman woke up as early as 5 a.m. and was already prepared to leave her suite at the SLMC at 6 a.m.

Horn, however, said that the Philippine National Police made a sudden change in the agreed mode of transportation for the former president's transfer.

She said that in three meetings, they were told by the police that Mrs. Arroyo will be brought to the VMMC by land. She said that it was never mentioned in the meetings that the former president will be flown to the state-owned hospital in Quezon City.

Horn said that they suspect that the government is deliberately delaying the transfer of the former president.

"Sana nga hindi tama ang aming hinala na baka hinihintay nila na lumabas ang mga raliyista [I hope our suspicion is wrong that they (the authorities) are waiting for the protesters]," she said.

She added that Mrs. Arroyo was already feeling stressed with the delay.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo said earlier that the security team prefers to transfer Mrs. Arroyo by air due to security considerations.

Radio report said that as of 11 a.m., a helicopter was already on standby at the SLMC. The chopper is believed to be the one that will be used for the air transfer of the former president.

"Very likely if the weather permits it will be by air. For security reasons, it's easier to manage," Robredo said in an interview with ABS-CBN News.

He added that the transfer by land is only the second option, explaining that traffic along the Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA) and C5 Road are unpredictable.

"If it's not possible, we will do by land. The deadline is today," Robredo added.

The interior secretary, meanwhile, denied that the government is waiting for anti-Arroyo groups to arrive at the VMMC before leaving the SLMC.

He said that aside from the traffic, the PNP is also concerned with the security of the former president as well as of those who will be included in the convoy.

Reports said that Mrs. Arroyo will be accompanied by her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, a private nurse and a doctor from the Philippine National Police.

Horn said during the press conference that the Arroyo couple "have decided" that they will not ride the helicopter prepared by the police.

"Hindi sila lilipad in this weather [They are not flying in this weather]," she said, adding that they would rather ride a cab to get to the VMMC.

A counsel of Mrs. Arroyo said earlier that the former president is afraid of flying in bad weather.

"The president has experienced helicopter crashes before so there is that fear in her about riding in bad weather. She has trauma especially now with the bad weather," lawyer Lawrence Arroyo said.

Secretary Robredo also said that the Arroyos forgot that they are no longer in power, and that they cannot decide for their mode of transport, further adding that the PNP is the one making the decision.

Court's Deadline

In a separate television interview, Malacañang spokesperson Ricky Carandang clarified that the court's deadline for the transfer of the former president is today (Dec.9).

"There is no delay," Carandang said, adding that the court's order can be complied even if the transfer is made late today.

Robredo, meanwhile, said that the PNP will try to transfer Mrs. Arroyo to the VMMC before 5 p.m. today. He added that the camp of Mrs. Arroyo should respect whatever decision the PNP will make. He insisted that the police has prepared for both modes of transportation.

Rodelio Buenviaje, sheriff of the Pasay City Regional Trial Court, said that the PNP has the final say on which mode of transportation will be used for the transfer.

Buenviaje said that what important is that the court's order to transfer Mrs. Arroyo to the VMMC within the day will be implemented by the police.

"Ang masusunod diyan ay ang PNP. Ang order ng court na ipinapatupad ng PNP should prevail [The one that should be followed is the PNP. The court order the PNP is complying should prevail]. The PNP is only acting upon the orders of the court," he explained.

The government has prepared the presidential suite at the VMMC, which Mrs. Arroyo will occupy for the whole duration of her hospital arrest.

The same suite was occupied by former President Joseph Estrada after he was arrested on plunder charges in 2001.

Police took Mrs. Arroyo into custody last month after being ordered arrested by the Pasay City Regional Trial Court based on the electoral sabotage case filed by the Commission on Elections.

Mrs. Arroyo is also facing at least six plunder complaints before the Department of Justice and the Office of the Ombudsman.

Antis and Pros meet at VMMC

Anti-Gloria protesters demanding that the former
president should be jailed instead of a hospital
Meanwhile, hundreds of loyalists of Mrs. Arroyo gathered in front of the main gate of the VMMC to express their support for the former president.

Mrs. Arroyo's province mates from Pampanga and some Aetas converged at the entrance of the VMMC along North Avenue as early as 6 a.m.

Despite the heavy downpour this morning, Arroyo supporters, carrying placards expressed wishes of quick recovery for the ailing former President.

At around 9:30 a.m., around 100 anti-Arroyo protesters also arrived at the VMMC, chanting "Jail GMA!"

Anti-riot policemen were quick to separate the two groups after several of the Arroyo supporters chanted, "Palayain si Gloria [Free Gloria]."


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