MANILA — The Philippine government has finally found a way to stop former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from leaving abroad.

The Commission on Elections and the Department of Justice joint panel investigating the alleged massive election cheating in the 2007 senatorial elections filed Friday election sabotage charges against Arroyo, former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and former Comelec election supervisor Lintang Bedol.

As result, the Comelec asked for a hold departure order against the three. At the same time, an arrest warrant was served shortly before Arroyo was planning again to leave for Singapore.

When the arrest warrant was issued by the Pasay Regional Trial Court Branch 112, Arroyo was at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City being monitored for her blood pressure. She was supposed to leave Manila for Singapore at 5:10 p.m. in order to undergo treatment for a metabolic bone disorder.

In a press conference at Malacanang, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said Arroyo’s lawyers can ask the court to grant Arroyo either a hospital or house arrest but they would have to wait until Monday because there is no work in the courts during the weekend. This means the former president is stuck at the hospital.

She said out of courtesy to Arroyo, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo called up the former president’s youngest son, Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado Ignacio Jose Maria (“Dato”) Arroyo, to inform the Arroyo camp about the arrest warrant and to advise to the former president not to leave the hospital anymore.

“They have advance notice para hindi mabigla or pilitin pang pumunta sa airport at doon huhulihin. Ayaw natin ng ganoong eksena,” she added.

De Lima said once the arrest warrant is served on Arroyo in the hospital, she will not be handcuffed but she will have to undergo the usual mug shots and finger printing process.

“For as long she stays in the hospital or at home we will not insist on bringing her to a detention facility but the moment she gets out, our officers will be constrained to arrest her and put her in a detention facility,” she said.

De Lima said there is “nothing unusual” about the speedy issuance of the arrest warrant by the Pasay RTC Branch 112, where the electoral sabotage case was filed on the same day, as long as the judge sees probable cause.

“Rest assured the government will exercise fairness and impartiality and uphold every right that Mrs. Arroyo is entitled to under the Constitution,” she said.

“It is our desire that truth and accountability prevail and Filipino will be given the justice they truly deserve…this is the real triumph for justice and accountability,” she added.

Voting 8-5, the Supreme Court earlier issued a temporary restraining order against the DoJ from implementing a travel ban order against Arroyo. The decision didn’t come as a surprise as there are no charges filed against the former President in the courts. The charges remain in the preliminary investigation level at the Department of Justice.