Manila: A Philippine court on Monday allowed former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to be detained temporarily in an upscale hospital suite on electoral fraud charges while her lawyers battle to get her released.
More than a dozen left-wing activists protested the ruling and demanded that the 64-year-old Arroyo be locked up like a common suspect in jail. A special air-conditioned cell complete with a living room and a small kitchen has been prepared for Arroyo at police headquarters.
President Benigno Aquino III`s administration has not opposed a hospital detention and has ordered Arroyo treated with respect.
Arroyo`s lawyer Ferdinand Topacio accused the government of filing the charges with "indecent haste" to ensure she would spend Christmas in jail.
Once described as one of Asia`s most powerful women, Arroyo, who denies any wrongdoing during her presidency, became the third ex-Philippine leader to fall into disgrace when she was arrested on Friday for alleged involvement in the 2007 rigging of elections to favour her senatorial candidates.
The election sabotage charge carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.
Judge Jesus Mupas approved "for humanitarian consideration" a plea by Arroyo`s lawyer Jose Flaminiano to allow her to be detained at the St Luke`s Medical Centre, where she has been receiving treatment for a bone ailment.
Her legal team also plans to question before the Supreme Court the legality of a joint Commission on Elections and Justice Department investigating committee that filed the charges, Flaminiano said.
The court did not rule on whether to publicly release Arroyo`s mugshots that were taken in the hospital over the weekend.