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Philippines court enters not guilty plea for former president on corruption charges

A Philippines court entered a not guilty plea on behalf of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] on Monday. Arroyo is accused of misappropriating $8.8 million in state lottery funds while in office. The judge entered the plea for Arroyo because she refused to enter a plea [AFP report] and her counsel stated that the charges were illegal and baseless. The Philippines Supreme Court has yet to rule on a motion from Arroyo that the charges are illegal. This is the third corruption case pending against Arroyo, who made bail in July [JURIST report] after eight months of detention in an army hospital. However, Arroyo was re-arrested [JURIST report] earlier this month on these new charges, which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison. Arroyo has maintained her innocence in all cases, suggesting the charges are politically motivated.

Former president Arroyo has been a target of anti-corruption efforts by President Benigno Aquino [BBC profile]. Arroyo was arrested [JURIST report] last November on fraud and corruption charges in the hospital before she was able to leave the country to seek medical treatment. 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. He was accused of accepting bribes to support the $329-million national broadband network deal with ZTE Corporation. 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.

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