MANILA (AFP) – Detained former Philippines president Gloria Arroyo will be allowed home for Christmas after a court decided to show “compassion” ahead of Pope Francis’s visit to the country next month.
Arroyo has been under arrest since 2011 on charges of vote-rigging and corruption and is being held in a government hospital where she is receiving treatment for a rare bone disease.
The 67-year-old, who was president from 2001-2010, will be able to stay at her home in Manila from December 23 to 26 “for humanitarian reasons”, said special anti-graft court clerk Estela Rosete.
She quoted a court resolution saying the leave was granted “in light of the forthcoming visit of his holiness, Pope Francis who is the personification of mercy and compassion”.
The pontiff is due to visit the predominantly Roman Catholic archipelago from January 15 to 17 and will attend events that are expected to draw millions of people.
Rosete stressed that Arroyo would only be allowed to visit her home. “Not to any other place, just there,” she said, adding that visitors would be permitted and that there would be a police escort.
Arroyo’s lawyers had asked that she be granted leave from December 23 to January 3.
Her successor and arch-critic President Benigno Aquino has previously blocked Arroyo’s efforts to seek medical treatment abroad.a