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Philippines detains Arroyo on plunder charges

In this Feb. 23, 2012 file photo, former Philippine President and now Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo arrives at a Pasay City Court for her arraignment on electoral fraud charges in Manila. The Philippine anti-graft court on Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, ordered the arrest of Arroyo in the third corruption investigation against her, this one accused her of misusing $8.8 million in state lottery funds during her last years in office.

Bullit Marquez/AP

Former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was detained on Thursday on charges of plunder, a crime which carries a maximum penalty of life in jail, in one of a series of corruption cases brought against her.

Less than three months after she was released on bail following about eight months in detention on charges of election fraud, the latest charge against the ailing Ms. Arroyo involves the more serious offence of misusing state lottery funds.

"When we arrived at the hospital, she was lying on the bed with an IV attached to her," Senior Superintendent Joel Coronel, chief of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, told reporters. Ms. Arroyo, who suffers from a spine condition, was being treated for dehydration.

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Mr. Coronel said Ms. Arroyo, 65, was "very cooperative" when police took her fingerprints and photos.

The Ombudsman's office alleges that Ms. Arroyo and her co-accused of unlawfully acquiring and accumulating public funds amounting to 366 million pesos ($8.8- million) by diverting lottery funds for personal gain.

Another former Philippine President Joseph Estrada was pursued by the Arroyo administration under the same Plunder Law. He was found guilty and sentenced to life in prison, but was pardoned a short time later.

Mr. Coronel said Ms. Arroyo would remain under confinement at the army hospital where she was held earlier this year.

Ms. Arroyo, president from 2001 to 2010, is unlikely to escape detention this time around as the charge under the Plunder Law is a non-bailable offence.

Ms. Arroyo also faces allegations of graft over an aborted $329-million national broadband deal with China's ZTE Corp. in 2007. She denies all charges and posted bail on both cases.

President Benigno Aquino's pursuit of charges against Ms. Arroyo and the Philippines' success in kicking out her allies -- the Ombudsman and the Supreme Court chief justice -- all within a span of about a year have been cheered by investors as clear signs that the government is serious in its anti-graft agenda.

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Ms. Arroyo was stopped last year by government agents at Manila's main international airport as she was on her way to board a plane for overseas treatment.

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