Philippine ex-president's spouse leaves for Japan

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, spouse of former Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, quietly slipped out of the country early Thursday morning.

Arroyo left for Japan via Hong Kong on board Cathay Pacific flight CX 904 which departed at 6:20 a.m.

His embarkation card indicated that his tinal destination was Narita International Airport in Japan and he is billeted at Imperial Hotel.

Airport authorities said the husband of Arroyoo was seen at the departure area of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 1 as early as 3:45 a.m.

Arroyo, they claimed, went through the normal security procedures just like other ordinary passengers.

He walked through the initial security screener without any security escorts, an airport personnel said.

After passing through the initial security check, Arroyo proceeded to the business class check-in counter of Cathay Pacific, then to the terminal fee counter.

He then proceeded to the Immigration counter where he presented his passport, ticket, departure card and a copy of the Sandiganbayan order allowing him to travel to Japan and Hong Kong.

Arroyo reportedly stayed at the Cathay Pacific lounge while waiting for his flight, airport authorities said.

Arroyo also obliged to request of some passengers to have their pictures taken with him, a female airport employee said.

" Some kids had their pictures taken with him and he was accommodating," she added.

Arroyo, who is facing graft charges for the botched ZTE National Broadband Network deal, was earlier allowed by the Sandiganbayan's 4th Division to leave the country.

Arroyo had filed a motion with the antigraft court for permission to travel, explaining that he was scheduled to meet with businessmen involved in hydroelectric operations and to get some much needed rest.

In an earlier interview, he said his trip had the approval of his wife and co-accused in the case alleging irregularities in a multimillion-peso deal with China's ZTE corporation for the establishment of a national broadband network (NBN) in the country.

Arroyo vowed to come home on the scheduled date. He told reporters he was entitled to the presumption of innocence while the graft case was being heard, and still had the constitutional right to travel.

" I'm not a flight risk. I will return. It will be just for a week," he said.

In Japan, Arroyo is set to speak before the Filipino community in Edogawa-Ku in Tokyo on May 5. He will also meet with Japanese businessmen involved in hydroelectric operations.

He said he would try to talk them into investing in the country.

The trip to Hong Kong, he said, was for rest and recreation.

His lawyer, Edna Herrera-Batacan, had said that the former first gentleman has suffered so much political pressure, and also wants to get away from Manila's summer heat.

The former first gentleman is expected to be back in the country on May 10.

COPYRIGHT: ASIA NEWS NETWORK

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