Aquino: Body to probe Arroyo
Win first, Palace twits LP candidate
By Philip Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—If elected president, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III Monday said one of his first acts in office would be to set up a commission that would investigate the various scandals that had engulfed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“We want to set up an office or commission that will create a mechanism that would provide closure to all the issues surrounding this current administration,” Aquino said in an interview over GMA Channel 7’s Unang Hirit.
The Liberal Party standard-bearer said the commission would be modeled after the Presidential Commission on Good Government that went after the ill-gotten wealth of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies.
“If there is a crime, someone should pay. There should be a mechanism so that there would be closure for items like ‘Hello Garci,’ the fertilizer fund scam and ZTE. There should be focus on this,” Aquino said.
He said the commission “should make sure that there would be no technicalities that would cause more and more delays in resolving these cases.”
He cited as an example the Senate inquiry into the alleged involvement of First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, his son Juan Miguel and brother Iggy—both congressmen—in “jueteng,” an illegal numbers game.
Sen. Manuel Villar, the Nacionalista Party presidential candidate in the May 10 elections, has claimed credit for mounting the jueteng investigation, Aquino said.
“It turns out there was not even a report about it after all those hearings,” Aquino said, ostensibly referring to speculation that Villar was secretly aligned with the Arroyos.
“We now have no (report) to use as basis for the filing of charges,” he said.
Aquino also said that he would convene an advisory council to be composed of representatives from the three branches of government—the executive, legislature and judiciary—to reform the country’s justice system.
“We should improve the delivery of justice so that it would not take six years, at each level of the judiciary, to resolve cases and that the conviction rate of only 18 percent would be improved,” he said. “We will try to make sure that it would not take decades to resolve cases.”
Aquino said he would also set up a group that would study whether there was a need to change the Constitution. “We want to know if there is a public clamor for that. That is what we are going to do in our first hundred days,” he said.
Palace: Scandals settled
Reacting to Aquino’s plan, deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar told reporters that the Liberal Party presidential candidate “is perfectly entitled to put together whatever kind of agenda he believes is appropriate for the country.”
“(But) Senator Aquino first has to get elected before he can implement this agenda,” Olivar added.
“Do we investigate the sins of the past or do we continue what has been achieved in the past and keep on moving the country forward? That is his choice to make and if this is the choice he is offering to voters and we trust that the voters will make their respective decisions accordingly,” he said.
Olivar said the Palace had always maintained that these controversies “were already properly heard and properly settled through available due process.”
Villar’s spokesperson, Gilbert Remulla, said that if the Nacionalista Party candidate won, Ms Arroyo would be investigated properly and that cases would be filed against her.
“The next administration will not be lacking in cases that will be filed against Gloria Arroyo,” said Remulla, who is running for a Senate seat. “She will surely have her day in court.” With reports from Christine O. Avendaño and Nikko Dizon