[PHOTO - Former President Gloria Arroyo]

MANILA, DECEMBER 9, 2011 (STAR) By Paolo Romero- “I was prejudged by the Aquino administration.”

This was the lament aired by former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on the eve of her transfer to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City today, even as she maintained that she committed no wrongdoing during her nine years in office.

“Ang masabi ko I have peace of mind dahil malinis ang aking kunsensya. Gaya ng sabi ko sa aking pagkapangulo bukod tanging layunin ko ay maglingkod (All I can say is that I have peace of mind because I have a clear conscience. Like what I have said, in my presidency I only wanted to serve),” Arroyo told GMA 7 broadcaster Arnold Clavio yesterday in an interview aired over the network’s primetime newscast 24 ORAS.

The interview, which was held in her suite at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City, was her first television interview since she underwent surgery on her cervical spine last July 29.

“Now I was prejudged by the new administration. They even resorted to demagoguery so that they can demonize me. Of course, if I am portrayed as bad he will look good,” she said.

She added that she is sustained by the advice of her father, the late President Disodado Macapagal, that “do what is right, do your best and God will take care of the rest.”

“My only duty is to serve our countrymen. Nobody can quarrel with me over my industriousness.”

She said her faith in God remains strong.

She said she is recovering from her three neck operations. But it remains uncertain whether her health will return to normal as there is still no official biopsy on her suspected metabolic bone disease.

She declined to answer questions on her numerous criminal cases, but said, “Ako ay naniniwala sa (I believe in the) rule of law.”

Arroyo said doctors have reduced by two the daily tablets she is taking to 23.

She said among her biggest sources of inspiration are her grandchildren, who often help her get up from bed whenever she needs to go to the bathroom.

The former leader disclosed that she did some online shopping for gifts for her grandchildren but she declined to say what they were.

20 pounds lighter

Arroyo has accepted her fate but is depressed with her scheduled detention at the VMMC in Quezon City today, her husband said.

Former first gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo yesterday said his wife has lost more than 20 pounds since last month after Malacañang prevented her from leaving for Singapore to seek medical treatment for her cervical spine ailment.

“I think she’s come to accept the reality that she will be transferred (to VMMC) but I can see that she’s depressed. She’s just a little over 90 pounds now,” Mr. Arroyo said. He said the Pampanga lawmaker has just recovered from a bout of colitis or inflammation of the large intestines and the family as well as her doctors have been prodding her to eat more to regain her strength.

“This morning she said she will not eat breakfast because she said she’s nauseated. But we all are trying to lift her spirits up,” he said.

Mr. Arroyo earlier warned that if anything happens to his wife, he will hold President Aquino personally responsible.

He said he and their two sons – Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado Arroyo and Ang Galing Pinoy party-list Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo – would accompany her to the VMMC.

Their only daughter, Evangeline Arroyo-Bernas, is abroad due to a delicate pregnancy, he said.

He said he and his wife will bring just one suitcase each of clothes since the furniture and automatic hospital bed have been transferred already to her suite.

Her spokesperson Ma. Elena Bautista-Horn said the lawmaker has requested that a small altar be put up in her suite.

The former leader went down from the 16th floor of Saint Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) to the 5th floor to attend a thanksgiving Mass at 6 p.m.

The priest celebrating the mass reminded Arroyo that “God allows (hardships) so that we will be able to have total experience of God's love.”

Arroyo's supporters said they “feel bad” about what the government is doing to the former leader. Some also expressed grievance against the media for allegedly trying to picture Arroyo as a bad person.

“Parang wala na siyang nagawang mabuti kung i-portray siya sa media (As if she did nothing good as the media portray her),” said Soiri Luz Nuyda.

Arroyo's cousin Lita Macapagal Gonzales said Arroyo does not deserve such treatment.

Among the personalities who attended the Mass were Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, businessman Donald Dee, former Armed Forces chief Hermogenes Esperon, and former PCGG chair Camilo Sabio.

Arroyo, wearing a neck brace, blue dress, covered with a shawl, gamely posed with her supporters after the Mass.

Some kissed her, shook her hand, and took pictures of her. The STAR tried to interview her but the former leader only gave a smile.

Daily Mass

Mr. Arroyo said his wife would try to attend daily Masses at the VMMC chapel, which is about three blocks away from her suite.

Bautista-Horn said they have requested her doctors at SLMC to regularly check up on her at the VMMC.

She said SLMC doctors, led by her personal physician, Dr. Juliet Gopez-Cervantes, would turn her over to Philippine National Police (PNP) medical personnel, who in turn, would bring her to VMMC doctors.

The sheriff of the Pasay Regional Trial Court (RTC) branch 112 made a final inspection of the presidential suite at VMMC yesterday.

Lawyer Rodelio Buenviaje said he would report to RTC Judge Jesus Mupas the physical condition of the VMMC presidential suite, particularly the bathroom that was the subject of a motion filed by the defense asking for an extension of her stay at SLMC in Taquig City.

He said the PNP will be in charge of the transfer of Arroyo from the SLMC, while security at the VMMC will be the responsibility of both the police and the military.

Joel Pelicano, RTC branch 112 clerk of Court, said that the ban on the use of cellphones and computers would be enforced at the presidential suite of the VMMC pending the resolution of the motion for reconsideration filed by defense lawyers.

Quezon City Police District (QCPD) director Chief Superintendent George Regis said the PNP had also prepared the VMMC helipad in case there is a last minute change to airlift the former president instead of traveling by land.

Anti-Arroyo activists and her supporters are expected to converge at the vicinity of the VMMC.

Regis said considering the huge number of protesters expected to gather outside the hospital premises, Arroyo is more likely to be airlifted to the hospital.

He said the big rally that is expected to be staged by various groups would prompt the PNP to implement Plan B, which means transporting the patient-prisoner by helicopter.

Regis said security inside and outside the hospital would be tight with more than 200 policemen deployed at gates 1 and 2 of the hospital.

PNP chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome will supervise Arroyo’s transfer.

Regis said once the former president is at the VMMC, QCPD Station 2 commander Superintendent Audie Madrideo would be in charge.

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said there is a 50-50 chance that Arroyo will be airlifted to the VMMC.

Robredo said Bartolome would decide on whatever mode will be used to transfer Arroyo.

Arroyo’s lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said it is best if the former president is transferred to the VMMC faster.

“Hope there is no delay in the streets for health and security reasons,” Topacio said.

He also appealed to the media to just wait for Arroyo at the VMMC, instead of trailing the police convoy from the SLMC to avoid security risks.

Chief Superintendent Miguel Laurel, deputy chief for administration of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO), said 150 policemen would be deployed to secure the convoy of Arroyo.

Laurel, head of Task Force FPGMA (Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo), said additional policemen were deployed yesterday at the SLMC following reports that militant groups and anti-Arroyo forces would stage a protest rally at the hospital.

Maj. Gen. Tristan Kison, chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-National Capital Region Command (AFP-NCRCOM), has placed a battalion of soldiers on standby to assist the police in Arroyo’s transfer. With Perseus Echeminada, Michael Punongbayan, Aie Balagtas See, Aurea Calica, Non Alquitran, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Jaime Laude

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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