[JURIST] The Supreme Court of the Philippines [official website] on Tuesday ordered the immediate release of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo [JURIST news archive], who has been kept in hospital detention for nearly five years on charges of election fraud, plundering, and corruption. The Court, in an 11-4 decision [AP report], dismissed the charges citing a lack of sufficient evidence. Arroyo expressed [press release] her appreciation of the decision saying, “I sincerely hope that everyone will respect and recognize the truth that has been established[.]” She also urged people to “[k]eep faith in the justice system.”
Philippine authorities filed a second criminal complaint [JURIST report] against Arroyo in late 2011 for previous charges of corruption and electoral fraud. The second complaint alleged that Arroyo approved a $329-million national broadband network deal with the Chinese company ZTE Corporation in return for millions of dollars in kickbacks in 2008. Arroyo abandoned the deal in 2008 as a result of public pressure. Prosecutors also charged Arroyo’s husband Jose Miguel Arroyo, the former Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza and former Commission on Elections Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. on related charges. Arroyo was formally charged in November 2011 with corruption and election fraud during her presidency and was arrested the next day on a warrant issued for the charges. Earlier that same week, Arroyo and her husband tried to leave the country after the Philippine 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. In July 2010, then-President Benigno Aquino 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.