[JURIST] Former Philippines president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo [BBC backgrounder, JURIST news archive] pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges of electoral fraud. Arroyo is accused of rigging senate elections [AP report] in favor of the candidates she supported in 2007. Arroyo was formally charged in December with corruption and election fraud during her presidency. She was arrested the day after on a warrant issued for the charges. Arroyo also faces charges filed in a second criminal complaint [JURIST report] that she approved a $329-million national broadband network deal with the Chinese company ZTE Corporation [corporate website] in return for millions of dollars in kickbacks in 2008. If Arroyo is convicted she could face life in prison.
Following Arroyo’s arrest on charges of election fraud and corruption, she and her husband tried to leave the country after the Philippines Supreme Court allowed them to travel [JURIST report] despite the pending charges, but were denied transit until they received an official copy of the court order. The arrest warrant effectively overrides the court’s travel permit. The former Philippines president has been under hospital arrest [JURIST report] since November 2011. She is reportedly being treated for a bone ailment. In July 2010, current Philippines President Benigno Aquino [BBC profile] signed an executive order [JURIST report] to set up a “truth commission” to investigate allegations that the outgoing administration engaged in corruption and rights violations.