Former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been charged with plunder for the alleged misuse of state lottery funds worth US$8.8 million during her time in office. The money was allegedly diverted from the Philippines Charity Sweepstakes Office for her own use.
Arroyo, president from 2001 to 2010, was already out on bail following separate charges for electoral fraud involving the 2007 senate election and corruption linked to a Chinese company.
Arroyo, her husband and two associates allegedly acquired US$35 anti-corruption authorities.
However, it is the charge of plunder — a non-bailable offense – that could be her ultimate undoing. It carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment and detention would stifle her re-election ambitions to congress. The 65-year-old currently holds a seat in the House of Representatives and, while she is disliked across The Philippines, she is still popular in her home province of Pampanga.
The warrant was issued while she was apparently in the hospital for a routine check on a spinal condition.
Arroyo has denied all charges, accusing President Begnino Aquino of using an anti-corruption platform, which carried him to victory in the 2010 poll, against her in a personal vendetta. She was reportedly distressed by the charges and the possibility that more could be forthcoming.
Her husband has also been investigated for a controversial helicopter transaction with the Philippine National Police but he also developed a habit of excusing himself from Senate hearings because of a heart condition.
Critics have accused the couple of feigning illness to escape government hearings, win sympathy and develop a defense in case such charges stick. Her years in office were dogged by persistent rumors and outright allegations of corruption.
This included ties with the notorious Ampatuan clan in the troubled southern island of Mindanao, who are being tried for the 2009 massacre of 58 people, most of them journalists, while commanding a heavily armed militia of 500 to 600 men.
More than 80 people, including the former governor of Maguindanao, Andal Ampatuan Sr., have been charged with the multiple murders and that court case is also ongoing.
Arroyo had apparently checked herself into hospital while the arrest warrant was being issued, and it was reportedly served while she was in bed being treated for dehydration and hypertension.
Under doctor’s orders she could remain there for some time to come.