Cover image via Philstar

After four years in detention, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, now representing the second district of Pampanga, returned to the House of Representatives on Monday for the opening session of the 17th Congress.

Arroyo, wearing a polo barong and a neck brace, joined the traditional breakfast of congressmen. She later went to her office on the second floor before proceeding to the session hall for the election of House officials.

In the afternoon, the former leader attended the first State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Arroyo was under hospital arrest at the Veteran’s Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) for plunder in connection with the alleged misuse of P366 million in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) intelligence funds from 2008 to 2010.

She was released on Friday after the Supreme Court dismissed her plunder case for lack of evidence.

Arroyo, in a television interview, lamented that she was a victim of political persecution.

“I mentioned that… you know, a lot of injustice. To begin with, the detention itself was unjust, so to me, that’s the most important thing and what I learned from that is this whole thing of political power to persecute political enemies, that must stop,” she told ABS-CBN television over the weekend.

“I must be the last victim. Let me be the last victim. I’m not saying that political figures should be immune from prosecution. What I’m saying is that the process should be fair and even-handed. So, let me be the last victim of political persecution using the justice system,” she added.

Despite her detention, Arroyo retained her seat at the House, winning a third three-year term as representative of her district.