MANILA (Reuters) - Former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is being investigated for corruption, was stopped at Manila airport from leaving the country but will try again to go overseas for medical treatment, a lawyer said Wednesday.
Arroyo went by ambulance to Manila airport late Tuesday, and she and her husband, Jose Miguel, tried to board a flight out after the Supreme Court imposed a temporary restraining order on a government ban on them travelling overseas.
But immigration officials, acting on the orders of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, stopped the couple from boarding their flight and the former president was taken to a hospital.
Ferdinand Topacio, a lawyer for Arroyo’s husband, said the decision to stop the couple from leaving showed disrespect for the Supreme Court after it cleared the way for their departure.
Asked if they would try to go again Wednesday, Topacio told ANC television: “They will go back to the airport.”
“And if the former president will not be allowed to board, that would be another sign of disrespect to the Supreme Court.”
Supreme Court spokesman Midas Marquez said the Arroyos were free to travel. He said failing to heed the Supreme Court ruling could be contempt of court.
But the justice secretary said that was not the case.
“I will look at the TRO and then file a motion for reconsideration with the high court,” de Lima told dzBB radio, referring to the Supreme Court’s temporary restraining order.
“Our position is that since there is a motion for reconsideration, the high court’s TRO should not yet be implemented,” he said.
The Arroyos say the former president needs medical treatment overseas for a spinal problem.
But the government, which is investigating allegations against Arroyo of electoral fraud and corruption, is worried the couple could travel to a country which does not have an extradition treaty with the Philippines.
The government has not charged Arroyo with any offence but President Benigno Aquino has said authorities intended to file charges before the end of the year.
The justice department has been investigating the Arroyos for their role in suspected election rigging in 2004 and 2007. They were also facing corruption inquiries in connection with several government contracts.
Arroyo was president for nine years from 2001 until her term ended last year.
The Supreme Court said she could travel abroad on three conditions: a cash bond of 2 million pesos ($46,200), the appointment of a legal representative, and for her to appear before a Philippine embassy or consulate official abroad.
($1 = 43.270 pesos)
Reporting By Manuel Mogato and John Mair; Editing by Robert Birsel