Philippines' Arroyo charged with vote rigging

The charges filed by the Commission on Elections capped a tumultuous week in Philippine politics that had seen Arroyo try to leave the country claiming to need urgent medical care, but the government stopped her at Manila airport.

"We just received the findings of the investigation and we saw it was enough for charges, so we filed the case," election commission spokesman James Jimenez said on the GMA television network.

He said defendants charged with electoral sabotage cannot post bail and must be detained during the trial.

There was however no immediate order from the relevant Manila court to arrest Arroyo, who remained in hospital today for what she has said is a rare bone disease that requires urgent specialist care overseas.

The election commission said Arroyo, who was president from 2001 to 2010, had ordered the wide-scale tampering of ballots in the 2007 senatorial elections that cheated an opposition candidate out of victory.

It said the ballots that had been fiddled with were in the southern province of Maguindanao, which was then ruled by the Ampatuan family.

The government filed charges against Arroyo at a lower court just as the Supreme Court, the country's highest, held a special hearing to deal with the political stand-off sparked by the travel ban on Arroyo.

Arroyo's lawyer, Raul Lambino, denounced the filing of the charges as another desperate effort to prevent her leaving the country.

"They are doing everything to stop her," he said.

"They are violating the basic rule of due process. It is clear this (decision) was railroaded (forced through) from the start."

Arroyo had arrived at Manila airport last night in a wheelchair and wearing a neck brace, seeking to fly to Singapore, hours after the Supreme Court overturned the government's initial travel ban on her.

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