GENERAL SANTOS CITY, November 19 – Immediate Past President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo fell into the Maguindanao hole in late afternoon of November 18. Never did she have an iota of thought four years ago that she was digging a hole to swallow her ingloriously shortly after basking in power. Never did she think that hole would feature in a drama where she would end up either a heroine or a villain.
Fortunately for the beleaguered Aquino III government, the Maguindanao hole turned up as its ace against the Supreme Court TRO (Temporary Restraining Order) issued to void the WLO (Watch List Order) of the Department of Justice preventing Arroyo from flying out of the country for medical reasons. The government fears that once the Arroyos are out of the country they would not return to face the criminal cases yet to be filed against them.
The drama started in the evening of November 15. At past noon that day, the Supreme Court issued the TRO which the Arroyos obviously had known earlier to be in their favor. They already had plane reservations for Singapore and Hongkong. Within hours of the issuance of the TRO they were ready with the P2-million bond and another legal requirement.
DOJ prevented the Arroyos from leaving at the risk of contempt of court and a constitutional crisis. DOJ and the Palace defied the TRO on procedural grounds – it had not been served to the Justice Department and it was issued before the hearing of oral arguments scheduled on November 22. Obviously to remedy this, the Supreme Court heard en banc DOJ’s motion to lift the TRO and other new petitions on November 18.
DOJ while hoping for the best, prepared for the worst. While the en banc hearing was going on at the Supreme Court, the government filed in court the “electoral sabotage case” against GMA, then Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan, and Maguindanao Election Supervisor Lintang Bedol, et al. The Supreme Court had said that it granted the TRO since there was no pending criminal case against the Arroyos.
As expected, the TRO was sustained with the same 8-5 vote that issued it – the eight all Arroyo appointees. However, RTC 112 of Pasay City, to which the election case had been raffled, issued the warrant of arrest immediately. The warrant was served to Arroyo at the St. Luke’s Hospital before the Arroyos could leave for their 5:30 flight to Singapore. GMA will be under hospital or house arrest.
RTC 112 must also have issued a DHO (Departure Hold Order) against GMA as prayed for by the prosecution. The Supreme Court TRO does not cover a lower court DHO. DOJ immediately petitioned the Court to lift its TRO since an arrest warrant had already been served to Arroyo. While Arroyo’s lawyers said they would ask the Supreme Court to restrain the filing of the electoral sabotage case that will be another story and it will take time to unravel.
The “electoral sabotage case” is the Maguindanao hole. That stemmed from the alleged order of Arroyo to rig the 2007 senatorial election in Maguindanao to give the Arroyo coalition Team Unity a 12-0 win – the eventual result despite the protests filed with the Commission on Elections. The case materialized after Andal’s provincial administrator and Bedol exposed how the rigging allegedly took place.
As a consequence of the exposé, Senator Miguel Zubiri, the 12th winning TU candidate, resigned to give way to Aquilino Pimentel III, who had challenged his (Zubiri’s) election at the Comelec and the Senate Electoral Tribunal. Pimentel filed the electoral sabotage complaint following the exposé and his installation in the Senate.
The electoral sabotage case is nonbailable. Because of her present health condition, Arroyo will not be detained in a regular detention cell; however, she will be under either hospital or house arrest. Will her lawyers be able to obtain relief for her from the Supreme Court?
But while she is in Maguindanao hole, more criminal cases – corruption, plunder, etc. – will be filed against her and her husband. One or two are in the “pipeline”. Even if her lawyers can get her out of the Maguindanao hole, more holes will be in her way.
GMA’s falling into the holes she has dug will have serious national political and legal consequences. She has triggered the confrontation of the Malacanang and the Supreme Court which actually started with her midnight appointment of Justice Renato Corona as Chief Justice. Some of the President’s allies have tagged the Court as an obstacle in the President’s tuwid na daan (straight road) program; the Arroyo loyalists are accusing the President of “vindictiveness” and of persecuting the Arroyos.
Abangan ang marami pang susunod habang nasa Mindanao hole si GMA. (Patricio P. Diaz, General Santos City).