[PHOTO -HEART PROBLEM. Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is rushed to the ICU days before her scheduled arraignment today. Prosecutors said they are amenable to postponing the arraignment of Arroyo following reports of her latest health condition. File photo from AFP]

MANILA, OCTOBER 15, 2012 (PHILSTAR) By Reinir Padua - Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was transferred yesterday to the intensive care unit of Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City after doctors noticed a problem in her heart.

VMMC director Nona Legaspi called the condition “ischemia” or the inadequate flow of blood to an organ.

Legaspi said they were assuming that a blockage in the artery was causing it. She said ischemia could lead to a heart attack if not addressed properly.

She said the ischemia could have been caused by stress. She said the former president would need more tests to determine her real condition, following the ECG performed on her.

“We should further investigate what’s causing it but we’re assuming it’s a blockage until it is proven otherwise,” Legaspi said.

An ECG was performed on Arroyo last Wednesday after she complained of chest pains.

Arroyo’s “hypokalemia” or the below normal level of potassium has remained, also prompting the ECG.

“Due to persistence of ischemia patient has been transferred to MITU (ICU) for further monitoring. Considering the foregoing, patient is not dischargeable at this time,” Legaspi said in a medical bulletin yesterday afternoon.

It was around 3 p.m. when Arroyo was transferred to the ICU from the hospital’s presidential suite. Only one person is allowed to be with her in the ICU.

Legaspi said policemen are still posted outside the ICU to guard the former president, who is currently under “hospital arrest” pending the plunder case she is facing before the Sandiganbayan.

Legaspi said they would be monitoring day-to-day Arroyo’s condition to determine if she would be fit for her scheduled court appearance on Monday for arraignment.

Among the tests to be performed on Arroyo are the 2D-Echo and Stress 2D-Echo, which would have to be done in another medical facility.

For these tests, her lawyers would need the court’s permission to bring her out since she is under detention at the hospital.

Legaspi said the blood samples could be taken at the VMMC but would have to be taken out also for examination.

She said they were taking the condition seriously and immediately transferred the former president to the ICU as “we have to act with urgency.”

Siquijor Rep. Orlando Fua said the worsening condition of Arroyo showed the “cruelty” of the Aquino administration.

Fua said President Aquino is surrounded by officials who are “do-gooders who think they’re the only saints in this world and consider everybody else as their enemy who should be persecuted.”

“I’m emphatic about this: this administration is cruel and lacks any humanity. Now we can show the world how cruel the Aquino administration is,” Fua said.

He said Malacañang has been blocking all appeals for her to seek treatment abroad out of spite.

“Even if her condition worsened after she is allowed to get medical treatment or specialized treatment abroad, at least President Aquino would be seen as a humane president,” Fua said.

Postpone arraignment

Prosecutors said they are amenable to postponing the arraignment of Arroyo following reports of her latest health condition.

“If that be the case, so be it. After all, we are prosecuting, not persecuting,” said Director Diosdado Calonge, head of the panel of government lawyers now handling the case.

Sandiganbayan executive clerk of court and spokesman Renato Bocar said the anti-graft court’s First Division might issue an order on Monday moving the arraignment date because of these latest developments.

Arroyo’s lawyer Anacleto Diaz, apart from making an oral motion for deferment of the arraignment during a hearing on the former president’s motion for hospital arrest on Thursday, filed a written pleading yesterday on the reason that the accused intends to file a petition for certiorari before the Supreme Court and not because of medical reasons.

As to the other respondents who are also scheduled to be arraigned on Monday, Bocar said the Sandiganbayan would have to decide on the same.

Meanwhile, the Sandiganbayan First Division issued a subpoena yesterday to VMMC director Legaspi ordering her to testify in court on Oct. 18. She was also directed to bring Arroyo’s medical documents that will prove her lawyer’s claims that she should remain under hospital arrest.

Two former officials of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) have joined Arroyo in demanding the release of the initial preliminary investigation resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman that allegedly cleared them of the plunder charges in connection with the misuse of PCSO funds.

Former PCSO general manager and vice chairman Rosario Uriarte and former board member Manuel Morato, through their lawyers, have asked the Sandiganbayan to direct the Office of the Ombudsman to produce what is now being referred to as the “Somido Report,” which was not submitted to the anti-graft court when the plunder case was filed last July.

The Sandiganbayan had earlier issued a warrant of arrest against Arroyo and several others who are facing a non-bailable offense of plunder for alleged misuse of P365.9 million in PCSO funds.

Morato is also confined at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City due to a heart ailment, while Uriarte is still at large and had reportedly slipped out of the country.

Uriarte’s legal counsels Benjamin Santos and Ray Montri Santos said at the hearing at the Sandiganbayan First Division last Thursday on their motion for judicial determination of probable cause that they have received information that the “missing” resolution that was reviewed and modified by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales was “favorable to all of the accused.”

The STAR earlier reported that the original panel of prosecutors and graft investigators of the Ombudsman that conducted the preliminary probe on the alleged misuse of PCSO confidential and intelligence funds found no evidence to charge the respondents with plunder.

The resolution supposedly explained why Arroyo and the rest of the respondents might only be indicted for graft, a lesser and bailable criminal offense under Republic Act 3019.

“The Sandiganbayan should look at the circumstances of the divergence of opinions within the Office of the Ombudsman,” said Uriarte’s lawyers, citing a Supreme Court precedent during the time of former Ombudsman Aniano Desierto in the Cabahug case.

They said the Sandiganbayan should require the production of the so-called Somido panel report wherein all of its members unanimously agreed that Arroyo and the other respondents should not be charged with plunder based on the evidence gathered during their probe.

Deputy prosecutor Cornelio Somido was co-chairman of the original preliminary investigation panel.

“The Somido report is of value to determine probable cause,” Uriarte’s lawyers stressed, at the same time accusing Ombudsman prosecutors of not seeking the truth.

Responding to such arguments, Calonge said the issues being raised by the respondent have already been raised before and are evidentiary in nature, which should be addressed during trial.

Morato’s lawyer Dante Diaz, however, sided with Uriarte’s legal counsels and also demanded the release of the Somido Report that would show two conflicting decisions by the preliminary investigation panel and Ombudsman Morales “to settle this once and for all.”

Arroyo, through lawyer Diaz, was the first to ask for the production of the “missing” resolution, which the Sandiganbayan did not rule on when it denied the former president’s separate motion for judicial determination of probable cause, a ruling that she now plans to question before the Supreme Court.

Three accused fled the country

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) unit yesterday confirmed that three of the 10 accused in the PCSO plunder case have already left the country.

Lawyer Claro de Castro Jr., chief of the NBI Foreign Liaison Division (FLD), said the bureau had requested the International Police (Interpol) to include in the Red Notice List former PCSO general manager Uriarte, and former PCSO directors Jose Taruc V and Ma. Fatima Valdes.

The NBI Interpol Section is part of the FLD and in charge of coordinating with Interpol offices worldwide to locate wanted persons.

Aside Arroyo, Uriarte, Morato, Taruc, and Valdes, also facing charges were former PCSO board chairman Sergio Valencia, ex-directors Raymundo Roquero, PCSO budget officer Benigno Aguas, former Commission on Audit (COA) chairman Reynaldo Villar and former COA-Intelligence Fund Unit head Nilda Paras.

Valencia and Aguas are now detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

De Castro declined to give more information regarding the operation to locate Uriarte, Taruc and Valdes.

NBI Director Nonnatus Caesar Rojas confirmed that some of the accused have already sent surrender feelers. With Michael Punongbayan, Paolo Romero, Sandy Araneta

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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