DAVAO CITY(MindaNews/5 October)—Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s arrest on Thursday for plunder charges was greeted here mostly with cheers and some by wariness.
The Sandiganbayan First Division issued the arrest warrant against the Pampanga representative and several others after finding probable cause for the alleged misuse of P325 million in intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.
Lawyer Joseph Felizarta, chief of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office, said the arrest “would mean that the justice system here is still working no matter who you are.”
Ernesto C. Dilodilo, vice president of the Federation of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries’ Banana-Based Cooperatives of Davao, said this will deter future plunderer of people’s money.
Representative Luzviminda Ilagan of the Gabriela Women’s Partylist, said this course of action is long delayed and should have been issued with all the cases against her.
“No special treatment has been Gabriela’s call. Political will in the part of the present administration can be manifested by pursuing cases against her,” she added.
Juland Suazo, public information officer of Panalipdan-Southern Mindanao, said that Arroyo’s arrest “was a result of the progressive movement’s determination to put her permanently in jail” after the Aquino government blundered by filing a weak case of electoral fraud.
“The people really want Arroyo to account for all her crimes against the people. And we thanked the people’s vigilance and sustained actions, particularly the filing of the urgent motion to Sandiganbayan by Bayan Muna Representatives Teddy Casino and Neri Colmenares,” he added.
But President Benigno Aquino III has no intention to prosecute Arroyo from the very start and instead, he has consistently used her as a smokescreen every time his popularity would plunge, said Omar Bantayan, a former labor advocate here.
“Aquino will now again use Arroyo to dodge the fiery darts that the people’s protest has fired against its draconian and Marcosian Cybercrime Act,” he added.
Bantayan said that Aquino opted “to pursue Arroyo with minor cases despite her supposed commission of various gross violations against the people’s civil and political rights, notwithstanding her rapacious plunder of the country’s wealth.”
“While Arroyo deserves to be in jail, let not the people’s focus be muddled. This regime, like Arroyo’s, is deceitful, irresponsible and anti-people. There is no significant difference between the two. At the end of the day, Aquino will just give Arroyo a slap on the wrist,” Bantayan said.
Panalipdan’s Suazo said the high profile arrest of Arroyo “should not make us complacent in pursuing for accountability and justice because the Aquino government is not keen on making Arroyo accountable for her crimes.”
This was attested by the past blunder of the Aquino government that resulted to the release, via bail, of Arroyo for filing the weak electoral sabotage case instead of plunder, he said.
“Arroyo must be treated as a common criminal that must be detained in jail not in VMMC (Veterans Memorial Medical Center),” Suazo added.
The former president is reportedly a “patient-detainee” at the VMMC presidential suite in Quezon City.
Suazo said it remains to be seen if the high profile arrest of Arroyo means the Aquino government is getting serious in fighting corruption or just a mere window dressing vis-à-vis the 2013 midterm elections. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro/MindaNews)