Former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has been freed from years of hospital detention after the Supreme Court cleared her of a plunder charge in what anti-corruption advocates called "a sad day" for justice.

Arroyo's lawyers say she was whisked off a military veterans' hospital in suburban Quezon city late Thursday and driven to her residence in an upscale area in the Manila metropolis. Arroyo, 69, did not appear before throngs of journalists who have waited for her release.

On Tuesday, a majority of court justices granted Arroyo's petition to have the plunder charge against her dismissed for lack of evidence. Paperwork delayed her release from detention.

Left-wing activists who sued Arroyo said "it's a sad day for justice."