MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/29 June) — Having occupied (some say usurped) the highest post of the land, Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was expected to resign to a quiet life, away from the hassles and stress of politics, treasuring in private the good moments she had – and the bad times the country had – during her presidency. That did not happen. Instead, she coveted the obscure position of representative of Pampanga’s second district, an act which critics said, betrayed her unwillingness to give up power and privilege. She would not be content with being Citizen Gloria.
Arroyo’s decision to seek a lower position can be seen more as a defensive posture against possible criminal suits she might face upon leaving Malacanang. Militant groups in particular have openly made known their intent to prosecute her. In a statement issued today, the Kalipunan ng mga Katutubong Mamamayan ng Pilipinas (KAMP) said they wanted Arroyo “behind bars for human rights violations and plunder during her nine-year reign”. If there’s something that she dreads most after her exit from the presidency, it’s the prospect – though remote at the moment – of squandering her senior years in jail, a grave dishonor to the name of her respected father.
Conviction is remote considering that Mrs. Arroyo is not stupid enough not to learn from the mistakes of her predecessor, convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada. She has intelligence and cunning and knows where the holes that need plugging are. It would be foolish for her likely accusers to presume that prosecuting her will be a walk in the park just because her name was dragged into the major scandals that rocked her administration. Perception is one thing. Providing proof beyond reasonable doubt, the cornerstone of the country’s penal system, is another.
Besides, Mrs. Arroyo feels confident she can lean on her appointees to the judiciary to shield her from any and all legal attacks related to her past actions as president. That she stonewalled on the appointment of Chief Justice Renato Corona despite criticisms that his was a “midnight appointment” sent the message that she will use means fair and foul to protect herself from litigation. Corona’s personal loyalty to Arroyo as her former presidential legal counsel is not open to debate.
Count in too the other Arroyo appointees in the other agencies whose terms extend into Aquino’s watch, be they born at midnight or at break of day. Consider the significant role they will play in covering their patron’s tracks, and you can imagine her lawyers holding their bellies in laughter and pointing in taunt their client’s noisy but empty-handed accusers. It would be a different story though if former economic development chief Romulo Neri and former Commission on Elections chair Benjamin Abalos decide to implicate their boss in the graft charges filed against them.
Arroyo’s entry in the House of Representatives is meant to strengthen her defenses even if she would not be elected as Speaker. In her calculations, she is aware it would be difficult to grab the position if one does not belong to the incumbent president’s party and so she opted to field an ally, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman. Letting a proxy contest the position will save her from the ignominy of an impending defeat, as many of her allies are expected to do a ritual that has become commonplace after each presidential election – move to the party in power.
But her mere presence in Congress will allow Arroyo to sniff around and stage counter-moves more effectively. Given the traditional camaraderie among House members, a trait that often transgresses the dictates of decency, she can expect her colleagues, even those in the Aquino camp, to shield her from prosecution. The chamber has always been known for being protective of its members regardless of party affiliation. Of course, the militant lawmakers have other things in mind. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])