Police authorities are readying an air-conditioned room inside a police camp to serve as the detention cell of former president and now Pampanga 2nd District Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in case, the Pasay City Regional Trial Court (RTC) order her transfer from St. Lukes Medical Center in Taguig City.
The room located at the headquarters of the Southern Police District (SPD) in Fort Bonifacio which has taken custody of the former president after Pasay City RTC Branch 112 Judge Jesus Mupas issued an arrest warrant against her and two others last Friday is a far cry from the accommodations of Malacanang where Arroyo resided during her nine-year presidency or even from the family residence at the posh La Vista Subdivision in Quezon City.
The room measures only 3 by 6 meters and aside from a folding bed and pillow has no other furniture or amenities though it has a kitchen sink with running water from a faucet.
The SPD said they will replace the air-conditioning unit with a new one since the current one is already old.
But SPD Officer-In-Charge and Deputy Director for Administration Sr. Supt. James Bucayu said it is up to the court to decide whether Arroyo would remain at her hospital suite or be transferred to the detention facility.
The 64-year former chief executive has been staying at St. Lukes since Tuesday night after she and her husband, former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, were prevented by immigration authorities from leaving the country ostensibly to seek medical treatment abroad.
The SPD has deployed policemen outside her hospital suite and the hospital’s premises to ensure her safety.
On Sunday, some two dozen members of militant groups staged a lighting rally near the hospital calling for the prosecution of Arroyo before they were peacefully dispersed by the police.
Mupas issued the warrant against Arroyo, former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and former election supervisor Lintang Bedol for electoral sabotage in connection with alleged irregularities in the 2007 mid-term polls.
Electoral sabotage is a non-bailable offense, especially when the evidence is strong.
On Saturday, Arroyo was booked by the police. Booking process involved taking the mug shot and fingerprints but Arroyo’s legal team appealed to the police, the media and the court not to release the mug shot to the public so as not to humiliate her.
“Let’s treat the former president with the dignity due her as a former head of state. Let’s not further humiliate her,” said Ferdinand Topacio.
Topacio is one of the lawyers of Arroyo’s husband.
In a related development, Arroyo’s lawyer and spokesperson Raul Lambino said they will question Monday the issuance of the warrant by the Pasay RTC, saying it has no jurisdiction on the case.
Lambino said the Commission on Election (Comelec) erred when it filed the case before the lower court when the proper forum is before the Sandiganbayan since she is a public official.
But the poll body said Republic Act 9369 which amended Article 286 of the Omnibus Election Code give exclusive jurisdiction over cases of electoral sabotage to regional trial courts. Moreover, it added that the said law does not grant to the anti-graft court jurisdiction over election-related offenses.
The lower court is also expected to hear a separate petition for the issuance of a hold departure order (HDO) against Arroyo which could prevent her from permanently leaving the country while the case is being tried.