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Former Philippines president files bill allowing 'medical parole' for sick prisoners

Former Philippines President and current Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo [official website; BBC profile; JURIST news archive] has filed a bill [BusinessWorld report] seeking to allow the country's Department of Justice [official website] to grant "medical parole" to sick inmates. In particular, the three-page Medical Parole Act of 2012 [text, PDF], authored by Macapagl-Arroyo and her son, Representative Diosdado Macapagal-Arroyo [official website], provides that the Board of Pardons and Parole "may release a prisoner on medical parole if he has been examined ... and has received a written diagnosis" including an assertion that the prisoner suffers from an incapacitating illness, a description of the incapacitating condition, and a prognosis related to the likelihood of recovery. The bill also provides that the Board's decisions may be reviewed by the Bureau of Corrections [official website] using the same criteria. In order for a grant of medical parole, the Board must also conclude that "the prisoner does not constitute a threat to public safety and is not likely to committ an offense while on medical parole." Given this caveat, the proposed legislation does not apply to those prisoners sentenced to death, life, or reclusion perpetua. Filed on September 26, the Medical Parole Act has been pending with the House of Representatives Committee on Justice [official website] since October 8.

Former president Arroyo has been a target of anti-corruption efforts by President Benigno Aquino [BBC profile], and has been in and out of the Veterans Medical Center for treatment of a spine injury. Earlier this month, an anti-graft court ordered her arrest in a corruption case [JURIST report] alleging the misuse of over $8 million in state lottery funds. This was the third controversial corruption case [JURIST op-ed] pending for the former Philippines leader, who made bail in July [JURIST report] after eight months of detention in an army hospital. In April, Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel pleaded not guilty [JURIST report] to corruption charges before a special anti-graft court in the Philippines. The non-guilty plea came a month after a Philippines court issued an arrest warrant [JURIST report] against Jose on bribery charges. Arroyo faced the same charges in December when the country's authorities filed a second criminal complaint [JURIST report] against her alleging that she approved a $329-million national broadband network deal with the Chinese company in return for millions of dollars in kickbacks in 2008. Arroyo was arrested [JURIST report] in November 2011 on fraud and corruption charges in the hospital before she was able to leave the country to seek medical treatment.

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