Calls for TV coverage of Arroyo trial

Nov. 22, 2011 at 6:33 AM
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MANILA, Philippines, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- Politicians are pressing for the vote-rigging trial of former Philippines President Gloria Arroyo to be televised.

Two House of Representative lawmakers want the trial of Arroyo and several others to be broadcast to guarantee transparency in a case that has the highest public interest, The Manila Times newspaper reported.

The public demands full transparency," said Rep. Angelo Palmones of the Agham Party. "This is also an opportunity for the court to prove that congresswoman Gloria Arroyo gets a fair trial. Maybe it's best to have it broadcast."

Live coverage should be allowed because the case involves the millions of people whose votes weren't counted, said Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito.

"I am for live coverage because this is what the Filipino people have been waiting for," said Ejercito, whose father, former President Joseph Estrada, was arrested and jailed for misuse of public money.

Estrada's trial was the first time the Filipino public witnessed, through radio and television, a president stand trial.

In 2007, Estrada was sentenced but was granted a pardon by Arroyo. He ran for president in 2010 but lost to Benigno Aquino III.

Apart from the election fraud charge, Arroyo also faces allegations of corruption and graft during her tenure from 2001-10. Included are charges of tampering with elections for senators in 2007 to help a political ally.

Her trial, if and when it happens, promises to be as controversial as her detention and arrest last week.

Arroyo was under a travel ban by the government. But she and her husband were stopped at the Manila airport -- but not arrested -- by immigration authorities from leaving the country for Singapore, despite a temporary Supreme Court order allowing her to travel abroad for medical purposes.

Arroyo, 64, who has been in hospital since the attempt to leave the country, has had three operations on her spine and has an intestinal infection, lawyer Ferdinand Topacio told reporters. She also is reportedly refusing to eat.

Topacio, said Arroyo was arrested while lying in bed at St. Luke's Medical Center in Taguig City, a suburb of Manila.

Topacio said she is being "persecuted" and will never receive a fair trial, despite assurances from Aquino.

"There is a pall of gloom about her because of what has happened. She is being persecuted and it is taking a toll on (her) health," Topacio told ABS-CBN television.

The case against Arroyo was "railroaded" and her rights were being violated. "They will now pull all stops to prevent our client from getting a fair trial," he said.

Another Representative, Emilio Abaya, the secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Party, said it is up to the court to decide if media outlets can broadcast live coverage.

If live coverage isn't allowed, "regular reporting of the highlights of the case should be sufficient," he said.

"There will be high public interest and curiosity but recent Supreme Court rulings make it very difficult for television stations to cover [the hearings live]. Remember, this is just the first case (against Arroyo) and there are more cases to come," Abaya said.

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