Monday, November 28, 2011
Gloria Arroyo fit to leave hospital
Arroyo’s lawyers attempted to block her doctors from testifying at Friday’s hearing at Pasay City Regional Trial Court Branch 112 and proposed her house arrest, withdrawing an earlier plea for her continued detention at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City.
Lead defense counsel Jose Flaminiano admitted that his client, who has a bone ailment, was “fit for discharge” but did not specify which house he preferred her to be detained.
In a phone interview with the Inquirer later in the day, Flaminiano said it was up to Arroyo, now a representative of Pampanga, to say where she should stay. “We will consult her and lay down her options. We will know by Tuesday,” he said.
Arroyo has a house in the exclusive La Vista Subdivision in Quezon City and another in her district in Lubao, Pampanga province, near the Macapagal ancestral home.
According to Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, the government can better secure Arroyo at the Armed Forces of the Philippines Medical Center (previously known as V. Luna Medical Center) in Quezon City.
Robredo said authorities would treat Arroyo “no different from Erap,” referring to deposed President Joseph Estrada, who was initially detained at Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City before he was moved to a military camp in Tanay, Rizal province, and later to his rest house nearby during his trial for plunder.
“But this is the call of [Pasay RTC Judge Jesus Mupas],” Robredo said in a text message to the Inquirer.
Questions on health
As far as Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is concerned, the move by Arroyo’s lawyers to have her put under house arrest instead of hospital arrest was “an implied admission that her health is really improving.”
“There is nothing in her medical abstract stating that her condition was worse at the time she asked for an allow-departure order. That’s why I denied it,” De Lima told reporters in an ambush interview.
She also said she had received reports that Arroyo’s doctors were being “harassed” by the latter’s lawyers.
Talking to reporters outside the court after the hearing adjourned at past 10 a.m., Arroyo’s legal spokesperson, Raul Lambino, insisted that because she was no longer president, she did not have to make a full disclosure on her state of health.
The matter had been expected to be disclosed by her attending physicians, who were subpoenaed to court on Thursday.
The summonses were issued after lead election prosecutor Ma. Juana Valeza requested that Arroyo’s medical condition be revealed in court in order to determine the necessity of her detention at St. Luke’s—a request Flaminiano made last week only to be withdrawn at Friday’s hearing.
Flaminiano argued that since the defense had admitted Arroyo’s fitness to leave the hospital, it would be irrelevant to have her doctors disclose in open court her present medical condition.
“It’s not an issue anymore,” he said, adding that making any disclosure on the former President’s health could infringe on her right to privacy, and that a person’s medical condition was covered by the doctor-patient confidentiality rule.
Judge Mupas said the court could not rule on Arroyo’s transfer unless it heard from her doctors. He reminded the members of the defense that they were lawyers like himself and that it would be best to hear of Arroyo’s state of health from her doctors themselves.
“The court is interested in the present medical condition of the accused,” he said.
Despite the defense’s insistence on not putting the three doctors—main attending physician Juliet Gopez-Cervantes, orthopedic surgeon Mario Ver and endocrinologist Roberto Mirasol—on the stand, Valeza managed to have Ver testify on his patient’s fitness.
After Ver replied in the affirmative to the question of whether Arroyo was “medically fit,” Valeza asked no more questions.
But Mupas asked Ver to qualify his answer and elaborate on the patient’s “conservative management and treatment.”
“As far as my subspecialty is concerned, she is fit to be treated as an outpatient,” Ver said.
He said that Arroyo was being treated for pain in the lower back with painkillers and muscle relaxants, and that she recently complied with the mandatory bed rest and was undergoing physical therapy.
SPD HQ ‘preferable’
Arroyo’s rehabilitation can be continued “for the next several weeks as an outpatient,” Ver said.
Valeza, a lawyer at the Commission on Elections, moved that Arroyo be transferred to any government detention facility in light of her camp’s declaration of her fitness.
She mentioned the Southern Police District headquarters in Taguig as among the “preferable” detention places.
Earlier in the hearing, prior to Ver’s remarks on Arroyo’s condition, Valeza sought the patient’s transfer to a government hospital.
Defense co-counsel Jay Flaminiano acknowledged the prosecutor’s gesture but maintained their stand on their client’s house arrest.
Jose Flaminiano also said Arroyo could waive her appearance at every court hearing. He said this was among the considerations the legal team would look into after picking her place of detention.
“The only time she will appear is during the arraignment because her presence is mandatory,” he said.
In a radio interview, Robredo said Judge Mupas would “determine whether [Arroyo] needs house arrest or not.”
“Wasn’t President Erap in a government hospital, and it turned out to be OK? And [we just have to] make sure and make it clear that she is in the custody of the government,” Robredo said.
“If the court decides that she will be in a government hospital, then [it will be so]. But if the court [specifies] a regular detention facility, then we will prepare a detention center for her,” he said.
Arroyo and her husband attempted to leave the country, ostensibly to seek medical treatment for her abroad, on Nov. 15, after securing a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Supreme Court on her inclusion in the immigration watch list.
But they were blocked by De Lima, who said the watch-list order on her was still in effect because the Department of Justice (DOJ) had yet to receive a copy of the TRO.
Arroyo was subsequently charged with electoral sabotage along with Andal Ampatuan Sr. and Lintang Bedol, former Maguindanao governor and election supervisor, respectively, on the recommendation of a joint DOJ-Comelec panel that looked into the purported fraud in the 2007 senatorial elections in parts of Mindanao.
Up to the court
President Aquino also said it was up to the court to rule on the defense’s request for Arroyo’s house arrest.
Speaking to reporters after attending the first National Media Conference on Climate Change Adaptation held at Bicol University in Legazpi City, the President said: “They are the ones in power to decide where to incarcerate people that they ordered arrested. We are the executive [branch]; we are tasked to follow the mandates of the court when it comes to questions of the law.”
He also said “prudence” dictated that he not comment on the matter.
“Being the Chief Executive of this land, I might be construed as trying to influence the decision of the court,” he said.
Asked whether he felt vindicated now that Arroyo’s lawyers and doctors had attested to her medical fitness, Mr. Aquino said: “If the doctors did say that, then they became true to their profession. They told the truth, and we thank them.”
In Manila, De Lima likewise said it was up to the Pasay court to rule on whether Arroyo should be put under house arrest.
But she said this would “also be difficult because there’s a perception of special treatment,” which, she pointed out, “the administration is trying to avoid.”
She added that the other options available were Arroyo’s “private arrest” in a government or public hospital, or detention at an “appropriate jail facility.”
De Lima stressed that Arroyo’s health condition was “a matter of public interest.” She said this was one of the reasons cited by the DOJ in asking the Supreme Court to also have the former President’s doctors summoned.
The high court is expected to rule on the DOJ’s request on Tuesday. Chief Justice Renato Corona said that if the tribunal granted the request, the doctors would be asked to appear on Thursday at the resumption of the oral arguments on the suit filed by Arroyo against the government in connection with the ban on her travel. With reports from DJ Yap in Manila and Christine O. Avendaño in Legazpi City
First posted 12:39 am | Saturday, November 26th, 2011