Philippine court enters not guilty plea for ex-leader Arroyo

Former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, now a sitting lawmaker in the lower house of Congress, sits on a wheelchair on her way towards the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court in Quezon City, Metro Manila 29 October, 2012 Mrs Arroyo arrived in court in a neck brace and wheelchair from a military hospital

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Former Philippine President Gloria Arroyo has appeared in court on charges of misusing millions in state lottery charity funds while in office.

The court recorded a ''not guilty'' plea on her behalf after she refused to enter a plea.

Earlier this month, an arrest warrant was issued for Mrs Arroyo, who is accused of diverting $8.8m (£5.5m).

She arrived in court in a neck brace and wheelchair from a military hospital where she has been confined.

Mrs Arroyo, who suffers from a spine-related ailment, was admitted to the hospital for dehydration days before the arrest warrant was served.

She is currently a lawmaker in the House of Representatives.

Corruption charges

Mrs Arroyo was detained earlier this year on a separate election fraud charge but released on bail in July.

Her lawyer, Ferdinand Topacio, said he was optimistic that the current charges could be dropped.

He told reporters that there was a "pattern of persecution" against his client.

This is the third corruption case against Mrs Arroyo. She faces a maximum penalty of life in prison if found guilty.

Aside from plunder, she also faces charges over electoral fraud in connection with polls in 2007, as well as corruption over an aborted broadband deal with a Chinese company. She has denied these charges.

President Benigno Aquino has said that bringing her to justice is a key part of his anti-corruption campaign, says the BBC's Kate McGeown in Manila.

But Mrs Arroyo, who was president of the Philippines from 2001 until 2010, accuses her successor of waging a vendetta against her, says our correspondent.

She was first arrested in November 2011 when she tried to leave the country to seek medical treatment for her neck ailment.

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