Last week we were greeted by another telenovela/reality tv show starring President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. It was a roller coaster ride. The Arroyos scored victory in securing a temporary restraining order— so they can fly, fly away. Round one went to the Arroyos, but round two was Government’s having “won” an arrest warrant for Mrs. Arroyo, which was served. In classic television drama, late Friday night.
There seems to be a number of questions being asked. First, “Did the government rush the case to arrest Arroyo, or did the government take its sweet time?” Second, “Did the government somehow violate Mrs. Arroyo’s rights by preventing her from leaving the country?” Third, “The government— in this case— Secretary De Lima by disobeying the order of the court be cited for contempt?” And fourth, “Is there polarization— meaning— is our people split on the matter of GMA’s arrest and the circumstances surrounding it?”
On the first question, those sympathetic to Mrs. Arroyo have raised the issue that the government rushed the case against Mrs. Arroyo, and second would point out that the government took its sweet time filing a case against her. Let us assume for the sake of argument— for whatever reason— you know a reason like actually looking for evidence, and preparing arguments so as not to violate Mrs. Arroyo’s rights, and make it appear like a witch hunt— that yeah, the government did take its sweet time. And knowing that it was the last two minutes of the game, they either had to take bold measures to get that arrest warrant out the door or risk losing the game. You know like in basketball game you play four quarters and at the last two minutes of the game, down by ten, the team, like hustles to win or forces an overtime. Or like that Manny Pacquiao dude giving its all in that last round against Juan Manuel Marquez.
I’ll give another example, a kid was given a project to complete a week in advance by his teacher. Kid waits last minute to you know— do it. Submits the project on time, and gets a decent grade. Does it mean the kid was wrong to rush it? Does it matter at all?
The same thing with Mrs. Arroyo. Does it matter if the case was built up for months, and rushed the last minute, or done last minute to get that arrest warrant?
Did the government violate Mrs. Arroyo’s rights by preventing her from leaving the country? Law seems to be against the government. Fr. Bernas was puzzling over Department of Justice circular 41. I’m no lawyer, so does this mean that government Hold Departure Orders are unconstitutional? And if so, loads of people’s rights have been violated. What does this mean too for the POEA, sending OFW’s abroad. What’s the point of Deployment Ban when a Filipino could simply pack up his bags, and head off to the country where an employment opportunity waits?
What’s to stop me for example, to go into a 7-11, steal milk and loaf of bread, and when the police come to arrest me— I say, “Please, Mr. Police Officer, I have to leave Manila tomorrow to go to Singapore to get cancer treatment. I have a scheduled radiotherapy there. Can you arrest me when I get back to town?”
People can argue, “but hey, St. Luke’s has a pretty good oncology department. Why don’t you get your treatment there?”
But “I WANT to go to Singapore. I WANT to be treated by my doctor there”.
Perhaps, we wouldn’t have this conversation had I not exasperated the situation by stealing a bottle of milk and loaf of bread, no?
Put it another way, does being sick whether before or after the fact of breaking the law make me less responsible for any crime that I committed?
Seriously, there seem to be a lot of hoopla surrounding this. It was a rather brilliant move actually. The government lost to Gloria’s TRO, but they ultimately won the chess game by getting the warrant of arrest. Even if the warrant of arrest is somehow lifted— for whatever reason— it still buys the government sometime to get other cases and other warrants for Mrs. Arroyo keeping her in town.
So does this mean that the government— in this case— Secretary De Lima by disobeying the order of the court be cited for contempt? Wouldn’t it be ironic should Secretary De Lima be cited for contempt that she be sharing a jail cell with Mrs. Arroyo? If this was tennis, score 30-15, in PNoy’s favor.
There is clearly hostility between Aquino’s government and the Supreme Court. One can not help but agree with the government that there is doubt over whether the Supreme Court is for the people or for Mrs. Arroyo. The last minute acceptance of the Chief Justice Corona of his position tarnishes the credibility of the Court.
The absence of credibility in the justice system isn’t limited to the Supreme Court. One of the reasons cited by the World Economic Forum, for the Philippines’ low score is the terrible state of disrepair of the justice system. In this case the Corona court seemingly exasperates that reputation.
Fourth— is there polarization amongst Filipinos with regard to Gloria Arroyo’s case. Are they sympathetic towards the former president? Are Filipinos aware of the moves of the government, and the pros and cons such move does as it sets precedent?
It would be interesting if Social Weather Stations or Pulse Asia could come up with a poll on this issue. We’ve not seen any polling on the matter. It is difficult to ascertain without some data to say for example that there is polarization.
What’s clear is that the Arroyo PR machine plan is to gain sympathy. It is an appeal to the venerable Filipino culture that says being sick means “handle with care”. It is patronizing. Her condition however difficult doesn’t prevent her from traveling on an aircraft. It is difficult to be sick, but hardly does it prevent her from defending herself in court.
Mrs. Arroyo has, especially during her time in the Palace wrapped herself around an armor of the law. As Arroyo faces more troubles, it is best she responds to them, and prove her innocence or guilt.
My hypothesis on the matter is that— there isn’t any polarization. People welcome charges against the former president. On the second question, my hypothesis is this. The Supreme Court will rule, and if their ruling isn’t rooted in wisdom, and rationality, ultimately the people in a Court of public opinion, and history will decide. When that arises, it becomes therefore the job of the government to write laws that would set things right. However messy it becomes, this is what democracy is about. It constantly renews and revitalizes itself. So don’t be blinded by this protecting Arroyo at all cost argument, her pleas are political, not about rights.