Philippines former President Gloria Arroyo pleads not guilty to charge of electoral fraud

The former Philippines president Gloria Arroyo has pleaded not guilty to charges of rigging elections in 2007.

BBC news reports that Arroyo, who ruled the Philippines from 2001 to 2010, arrived at the courtroom in Manila under tight security and stayed just ten minutes.

She sat quietly beside her husband and son during the court proceedings, says the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's correspondent in the Philippines, describing how she only spoke to confirm her "widely expected" plea.

Arroyo's case centers on claims she rigged polls in a southern Philippine region to sweep all 12 of her Senate candidates to victory.

She was arrested in November 2011 and is currently being detained at a military hospital where she is receiving treatment for a spinal condition.

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The Washington Post and AFP say that the landmark trial is seen as a key test of her reformist successor Benigno Aquino's campaign to stamp out corruption.  It is the first of many cases expected to be brought against her.

Speaking after Thursday's appearance, Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that tech proceedings “bring us one step closer toward attaining closure to the many controversies (during her administration)."

“Accountability escapes no one,” he said.

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Meanwhile, Arroyo's husband Jose Miguel Arroyo told reporters: "She is frustrated. She feels it's an injustice to her."

The Philippines Star says Arroyo's pre-trial has been scheduled for April 19.

Reuters cites previous corruption cases in the country and speculates that Arroyo's trial could last months or even years. The trial of Arroyo's predecessor, Joseph Estrada, lasted six years before he was convicted of plunder and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2007, the news agency says. Arroyo pardoned him two weeks later.


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