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Philippines’ ex-president declined Christmas reprieve

MANILA: Detained former Philippine President Gloria Arroyo is to spend Christmas at a military hospital after a court rejected her bid for a temporary reprieve, an official said yesterday.
The 65-year-old will not be allowed to leave the Veterans Memorial Medical Center over the holidays, said Sandra Palugay, a staff member of the Sandiganbayan special anti-graft court which handed down the ruling.
“There is a denial of the request of the former president,” she told AFP, declining to give the court’s reasons for its decision. Arroyo had asked to go home from Dec.21 to Jan. 7 next year.
Her lawyer Anacleto Diaz expressed surprise at the ruling. He would not say what her legal team would do next.
Arroyo has been charged with plundering $ 8.8 million from state lottery funds during her years in office from 2001 to 2010.
Separately, Maoist guerrillas waging a decades-long insurgency in the country have resumed high-level peace talks with the government after a 13-month impasse, it was announced yesterday.
Meeting in the Netherlands capital The Hague on Monday and Tuesday the two sides also agreed to a 26-day nationwide ceasefire from Dec.20, according to a statement issued by Norway, which has been mediating the talks.
“As earlier agreed upon, they confirmed the nationwide ceasefire from Dec.20, 2012 to Jan. 15, 2013. They agreed to meet again early next year,” said the statement issued by Ture Lundh, a special envoy of the Norwegian government.
Chief Philippine government negotiator Alexander Padilla and two senior aides of President Benigno Aquino attended the meeting in the Dutch city, it said.
Jose Maria Sison, the exiled founder of the communist insurgent movement, and its chief peace negotiator Luis Jalandoni, led the other side, it added.
They also agreed to further talks on peace, human rights, land reform, and national industrialization, the statement said.
The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) pulled out of peace talks in November 2011 after Manila rejected rebel demands to free jailed comrades they claimed were consultants to the negotiations.
The two sides resumed low-level “backroom” negotiations in June, but the CPP continued to demand that the prisoners be freed and the government continued to refuse.
The statement made no reference to this earlier dispute.
Both the military and the CPP’s guerrilla arm, the New People’s Army, have declared separate, shorter ceasefires over Christmas, but the military says the rebels have already violated this by attacking government targets.
The communists have been waging an armed rebellion since 1969, and more than 30,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the government.