Philippine court clears Arroyo of plunder, orders her freed

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The Philippine Supreme Court on Tuesday dismissed a plunder charge against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, ordering her immediate release from nearly five years of hospital detention.

Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said the 15 justices voted 11-4 to grant Arroyo's petition seeking the dismissal of the plunder case before an anti-graft court because of a lack of evidence. The case involved the alleged misuse of 366 million pesos ($7.8 million) of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office fund.

The 69-year-old Arroyo, who is suffering from a neck ailment, finished her tumultuous nine-year term in 2010, but was arrested the following year on an election fraud charge, for which she was allowed to post bail. She was later charged with plunder.

Despite her detention, she was re-elected to Congress in May.

Arroyo was detained under former President Benigno Aquino III, who has accused her of corruption and misrule. Aquino's successor, Rodrigo Duterte, however, took a different position, saying the plunder case against her was weak and offering to grant her a pardon to pave the way for her release.

Arroyo rejected the offer, saying she had to be convicted first of a crime to be eligible for a pardon, and that she preferred to fight the allegation.

Duterte has appointed a number of Arroyo allies to his Cabinet, including his advisers on national security and peace talks with Marxist and Muslim guerrillas.