Charges against former Philippine President Arroyo dismissed

MANILA, July 19 (UPI) — The Supreme Court of the Philippines ordered the immediate release of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo Tuesday after charges against her were dismissed.

The high court voted 11-4 to free Arroyo, 69, noting insufficient evidence in charges of plunder. She was accused of misusing $6.8 million in lottery funds intended for children’s groups.

The category of offense disqualified her from bail so she was confined to a Quezon City hospital for nearly five years with a spinal problem, but her lawyer said she would be freed Wednesday.

Arroyo was a senator before assuming the presidency in 2001. After she left office in 2010 she was elected to Congress, and was re-elected in May despite her detention.

During her tenure as president she was often the target of corruption accusations, and evidence appeared suggesting she helped rig the 2004 national elections. After her arrest she said she was the target of President Benigno Aquino III, who succeeded her after an election in which Aquino promised to root out government corruption.

She is also accused of tampering with the results of the 2007 congressional elections; a conviction could send her back to confinement. Ferdinand Topacio, a lawyer for Arroyo’s husband, said he expected those charges will be dropped as well.

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