MANILA (Reuters) - A Philippine court said it has ordered the arrest of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on plunder charges, meaning a likely return to detention after she posted bail in July following about seven months of confinement.
The court has yet to serve the arrest warrant, issued late on Wednesday, to Arroyo and 10 other former state officials over allegations of misuse of state lottery funds as it was still clarifying how to proceed with the multiple arrests.
The 65-year-old Arroyo, who was president from 2001 to 2010, is unlikely to escape detention this time around as the charge under the Plunder Law is a non-bailable offence. Plunder carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.
She ended about seven months of detention at an army hospital in July after posting bail on lesser election fraud charges.
Arroyo’s lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, said her office was still assessing the situation.
Arroyo also faces allegations of graft over an aborted $329 million national broadband deal with China’s ZTE Corp. in 2007. She denies all charges and posted bail on both cases. She has filed her candidacy this week for a second term as congresswoman in next May’s mid-term elections.
President Benigno Aquino’s pursuit of charges against Arroyo and the Philippines’ success in kicking out her allies — the ombudsman and the Supreme Court chief justice — all within a span of about a year have been cheered by investors as clear signs that the government is serious in its anti-graft agenda.
In its September resolution, the Ombudsman’s office alleged that Arroyo and her co-accused unlawfully acquired and accumulated public funds amounting to 366 million pesos ($8.8 million) by diverting lottery funds for personal gain.
Arroyo, who suffers from a spine condition, was stopped last year by government agents at Manila’s main international airport as she was on her way to board a plane for overseas treatment.
Another former Philippine President Joseph Estrada was pursued by the Arroyo administration under the Plunder Law. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison, but was pardoned a short time later.
($1 = 41.6050 Philippine pesos)
Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by Jeremy Laurence