Will President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III visit his predecessor former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) where she is currently being held under house arrest? The Filipino public is watching and waiting to see what President BS Aquino does next as various noted Filipinos known to be critics of the Arroyo administration including former President now Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada and retired Lingayen Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz have visited Arroyo. Cruz who was accompanied by former Vice President Noli de Castro was reportedly inspired by Pope Francis’s Christmas message of peace. He follows his fellow religious leader and Arroyo staunch critic Eddie Villanueva head of the Jesus is Lord (JIL) Movement who paid Arroyo a visit on the 14th December and Estrada who visited Arroyo at the VMMC on the 22nd of December.
Estrada was removed from office in 2001 in a popular uprising billed “Edsa Dos” and replaced by Arroyo under whose administration he was charged with plunder and convicted. He was also detained at the VMMC following his ouster. Attorney Fedinand Topacio, legal counsel of the Arroyo family pointed out the respectful manner with which the Arroyo administration treated Estrada when he was similarly incarcerated.
“When President Estrada was similarly situated during the Arroyo administration, he was always accorded by the Palace all the courtesies befitting him as a former Chief Executive who has served the country in the highest capacity, and, during his trial, as a person who was presumed innocent under the Constitution,” he said.
By contrast, the government of President BS Aquino is renowned for the shoddy treatment it accorded the former president. This treatment was characterised more by vindictiveness and malice rather than a genuine desire to uncover the truth about allegations of election cheating and high-level corruption that dotted Arroyo’s administration.
The circumstances of Arroyo’s arrest and detention in the hands of Justice Secretary Leila De Lima were controversial in that basic tenets of presumption of innocence were clearly violated. No less than then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile weighed in on the matter as evidence of Malacanang’s draconian treatment of the former President while in detention surfaced. “No matter how bad they think about her, she is presumed innocent until she is really convicted,” Enrile said during an interview with DWIZ radio. Enrile went on to remind Aquino of the way former President Ferdinand Marcos allowed his father, the late Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr, to go abroad to see medical treatment despite also being under arrest at the time.
The usual weapon of choice of the Aquino administration in its vendetta versus Arroyo was the media which it wielded deftly to demonise the former president. A noted artifact that was widely circulated over social media back in 2011 was a purported “list of crimes committed by Arroyo” during her term. My colleague Ilda noted back then…
The list is a long one and is designed for maximum shock value. It should be noted that the only reason the list is long is because many of the items are repetitive. One’s initial reaction upon seeing the list, which goes up to 39 items would be to feel indignant. But some of the items just sound so ridiculous. One which says “200 plus other illegal midnight appointments” during her time in Malacanang does not really have any details or specifics of who they are and what post they got. Another item that is quite suspect says, “Denial of pork barrel funds to Malacanang’s political enemies”. To which one would be inclined to say, the onus is on the accuser to prove the accusation and once again, the list does not provide specifics.
…many of which now come across as a bit ironic considering President BS Aquino himself now stands accused of the very same transgressions — his seemingly dishonest use of various government slush funds to “encourage” Senators and House Representatives to do certain things, his insulation of friends and family in office against accountability for various cases of incompetence and fatal negligence over the last several years, and his prioritising old political grudges to the detriment of the quality of emergency services delivered (or non-delivered as the case may be) in the aftermath of super-typhoon Haiyan in November last year.
For all his talk of walking the straight path (the daang matuwid slogan that was a pillar of his campaign) President BS Aquino, it seems, consistently never failed to exhibit what is evidently the typically bratty upbringing that characterises that of most politicians’ offspring. It is unfortunate for Filipinos — and especially now to former President Gloria Arroyo — that such behaviour is causing unnecessary grief for an entire nation already reeling from decades of economic mediocrity and the pummeling suffered from a continuous stream of “natural” disasters.
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