Photo by Mara Cepeda
On the day the Supreme Court freed her from plunder, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was pictured smiling and without her neck brace.
Netizens called her out for this because the Pampanga 2nd district representative is suffering from multiple cervical spondolysis or the wearing off of the bones.
Her spinal condition was one of the reasons why Arroyo ended up under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) instead of jail over allegedly misusing P366 million in state charity funds.
Roughly a month after the High Court acquitted her, Arroyo returned to the VMMC to donate two dialysis machines, two beds, and an air-conditioning unit – without her neck brace again.
Her lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said his client's neck brace is not meant to be worn all the time.
"The neck brace is not designed to be worn 24/7. It is only used to support the neck at time when support is necessary. The neck muscles will have atrophy if it is worn every day," said Topacio, using a medical term referring to the wasting away of the muscles.
Topacio said that Arroyo has to wear the neck brace when she goes through her brisk walking exercises and when she feels pain on her neck.
"In fact, the neck brace has to be washed regularly and disinfected," said the lawyer.
Despite her illness, Arroyo is determined to fully support President Rodrigo Duterte's legislative agenda, including the restoration of the death penalty. In fact, she is set to be named deputy speaker for her home region of Central Luzon.