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Ex-President Gloria Arroyo placed under police custody

(Updated 8:21 p.m.) Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was served with an arrest warrant late Friday after the Commission on Elections filed an electoral sabotage case against her and two others at a Pasay City court, Sr. Supt. James Bucayu of the Southern Police District told GMA News' 24 Oras. Also served with arrest warrants were former Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr., who is detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in connection with the November 2009 massacre in his home province, and former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol, who is detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame for being cited by Comelec for contempt in connection with the rigging of the 2007 election results. Mrs. Arroyo, who is confined at the St. Luke's Medical Center in Taguig City, is now under the custody of the Southern Police District, Bucayu said.
Judge Jesus Mupas of the Pasay City Regional Trial Court Branch 112 gave the order to issue arrest warrants shortly after the Comelec filed the case for electoral fraud in connection with allegations of cheating during the 2007 elections. The Arroyo camp on Friday said the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over Mrs. Arroyo’s case and, thus, the anti-graft court should have been the one to issue her arrest order. But Republic Act 9369, which amended Art. 286 of the Omnibus Election Code, vests exclusive original jurisdiction over cases of electoral sabotage on Regional Trial Courts. Moreover, RA 8249, which prescribes the Sandiganbayan's jurisdiction, does not vest in the anti-graft court jurisdiction over election offenses. Electoral sabotage, when evidence of guilt is strong, is a non-bailable offense. Although Mrs. Arroyo is now a congresswoman representing the second district of Pampanga, she can still be arrested even when Congress is in session because under the 1987 Constitution, congressmen can be arrested for crimes punishable by imprisonment of more than six years. Electoral sabotage is punishable by life imprisonment. Tumultuous week in PHL politics The events capped a tumultuous week in Philippine politics that had seen the government block Arroyo, 64, from leaving the country after she arrived at Manila airport wearing a neck brace and saying she needed medical care abroad. The Comelec decision to charge her Friday with rigging the 2007 senatorial elections also marked the high point in President Benigno Aquino III's campaign to hold his predecessor accountable for alleged graft. "Mrs. Arroyo is compelled to stay in the country and face the charges of electoral sabotage," Justice Secretary Leila de Lima told reporters after a Manila court issued an arrest warrant against the ex-president. Police served the arrest warrant on Arroyo at St. Luke’s where her aides said she was being treated for a rare bone disease that had led to three unsuccessful spine operations this year. Bucayu, who served the arrest warrant, told reporters at the hospital that she would remain there until she was well enough to leave. "We just put police guards outside her room," he said. Arroyo, the country's second female president who is now a congresswoman, had been accused of many corrupt acts, such as bribery, and efforts to rig elections during her time in power from 2001 until the middle of last year. — With Agence France-Presse/VS/MRT/YA, GMA