Final charge against Philippine ex-leader Arroyo dismissed

MANILA: The last of a series of criminal charges against former Philippine president Gloria Arroyo has been dismissed a court said, capping a remarkable comeback for the controversial former leader and Duterte ally.

The Manila court ruling, which was released on Friday, said there was not enough evidence to support accusations that then-president Arroyo had conspired with a local politician to rig the 2007 mid-term elections in favour of her senatorial allies.

“For failure of the prosecution to prove the guilt of accused Arroyo beyond reasonable doubt and moral certainty despite ample opportunity … the charge of “Electoral Sabotage” against accused Arroyo is hereby ordered dismissed”, the court ruling said.

Ferdinand Topacio, Arroyo’s lawyer, told ABS-CBN television the ruling was a “vindication”.

Arroyo, 71, served as president from 2001 to 2010 but her term was tainted by allegations of massive corruption and vote-rigging.

She was jailed on the charge of electoral sabotage in 2011 and in 2016 was hit with an additional charge that she stole 366 million pesos (RM28.9 million) in state lottery funds meant for charity programmes.

Benigno Aquino, a staunch critic of Arroyo, was elected president in 2010 and sought to make his predecessor a high-profile scalp of his anti-corruption campaign.

But in 2016, Arroyo was allowed to post bail on the vote-rigging charge and was released later that year after the Supreme Court dismissed the plunder charge against her.

Despite the controversies, in 2010 she was elected as a congresswoman, representing her family’s home province north of Manila. She still occupies that post, and was sworn in to the influential position of House Speaker in July.

Arroyo’s change of fortune came after her ally, fiery city mayor Rodrigo Duterte, was elected president in 2016.

She has been a supporter of Duterte, whose controversial campaign against illegal drugs has claimed thousands of lives and been widely condemned by human rights groups. — AFP

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