Manila: A “distraught” ex-Philippine president Gloria Arroyo was arrested at hospital on Thursday after being charged over a third case of alleged corruption during her time in power.
Authorities said an anti-graft court ordered her arrest after Arroyo was charged with allegedly stealing 366 million pesos ($8.8 million or Dh32 million) in state lottery funds meant for charity programmes and spending the money on election campaigns.
Police arrested the 65-year-old at a military hospital in Manila where she had checked in on Thursday morning for treatment for a long-term spinal illness.
“Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is now under the custody and detention of the Philippine National Police,” Senior Superintendent Napoleon Coronel told reporters outside the hospital shortly after she was arrested.
However, Coronel said she would remain in hospital overnight and the anti-graft court handling the case would determine later whether she could be moved.
One of Arroyo’s lawyers, Anacleto Diaz, said she had reacted badly after being told on Wednesday night that she would be arrested again.
“She was not just disappointed, she was distraught. She was very sad,” Diaz said while insisting the case against her was very weak.
Arroyo could face life in jail if found guilty, while nine other lottery and government officials have also been charged over their alleged involvement.
Arroyo ended her near-decade in power in 2010 as one of the country’s most unpopular presidents, amid allegations she had cheated to win elections, embraced feared warlords as allies and was involved in widespread corruption.
Rival Benigno Aquino won a landslide election victory in 2010, largely on a vow to fight corruption and prosecute Arroyo, who was was initially charged in November last year with vote fraud for allegedly conspiring to rig the 2007 senatorial elections.
Arroyo spent most of the next eight months in detention at the same military hospital where she was arrested on Thursday.
She eventually won bail in July, with a court saying the government’s case against her was weak.
In December last year, Arroyo was also charged with corruption for approving an allegedly graft-tainted contract with a Chinese telecom firm to set up a national government broadband system, Arroyo has pleaded not guilty to both those charges.
Trials for those cases have begun but could go on for years.
Arroyo is also a congresswoman, after winning a seat in parliament representing her political stronghold in 2010. She had registered on Wednesday to run again for parliament in next year’s elections.