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Aquino assures Arroyo of fair trial

Lawyer accuses government of actively victimising ex-president

Gulf News

Manila: President Benigno Aquino yesterday assured his embattled predecessor Gloria Arroyo of a fair trial as he said that her rights would be protected just like any Filipino citizen.

"She will have the opportunity to defend herself against the charges filed against her in court for electoral sabotage, she will be given so because it is her right as a Filipino," Aquino said in his speech given in Tagalog.

"She will undergo the same process of being tried under the law given to any other Filipino, [be] they street vendors, vehicle drivers, teachers, trash haulers, policemen or clerks. From the most highly regarded sector of the society to the most common, their rights as a citizen are equal under the law. No biases or privileges. Our attention will be focused on getting the truth and delivering justice," he said.

Prior to the court drama that unfolded in recent days, Aquino indicated that he was bent on getting Arroyo convicted.

Charges

Arroyo was charged at a record-breaking judicial pace on Friday with violations of the Republic Act 6646 or electoral sabotage, an offence under Philippine law that could get the former president imprisoned without bail.

It is yet unclear if the former president and now Pampanga province congressional representative can be charged under such a law because its provision may apply only to electoral administrators.

Meanwhile, an Arroyo family lawyer said the former president is being "persecuted" and will not receive a fair trial. Ferdinand Topacio dismissed assurances from President Aquino that the ailing Arroyo would be treated fairly, saying the government was determined to victimise her.

"There is a pall of gloom about her because of what has happened. She is being persecuted and it is taking a toll on [her] health," Topacio told ABS-CBN television.

Besides Arroyo, former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos, who has been hospitalised since Saturday, Maguindanao elections supervisor Lintang Bedol and former Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr and several others were charged with electoral sabotage.

Arroyo and her co-accused have been accused of tampering with the results of the 2007 elections in voting precincts in Maguindanao.

And while it is still unclear whether Arroyo could be held liable for electoral sabotage, the palace is already contemplating where to detain her.

Hospital detention

Arroyo has been in hospital detention since Friday afternoon when court orders to arrest her were served. Prior to her arrest, she had been in and out of Saint Lukes Medical Centre in suburban Taguig City since late September when she underwent cervical spine surgery.

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