Special treatment -- again -- for ex-President

by Inday Espina-Varona

Posted at May 19 2015 08:56 PM | Updated as of May 20 2015 05:05 AM

The House of Representatives Committee on Justice has approved a resolution seeking house arrest for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The administration of her successor, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, has filed several criminal charges against Mrs. Arroyo.

Mr. Aquino's administration managed to stop Mrs. Arroyo from leaving the country, ostensibly to seek medical treatment for a degenerative neck and spine condition. She has since been under hospital arrest at the Veterans’ Medical Center in Quezon City.

Why are lawmakers scrambling to accord special treatment for the ex-president?

Even if that resolution is non-binding, the concept behind it shows them bending backward for the former leader.

The committee, headed by Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas, greenlighted a resolution for Mrs. Arroyo to be placed under house arrest.


While some cases against Mrs. Arroyo has been dismissed, she still faces a plunder case. That’s probably one of the most serious crimes a national leader can face.

The only other crime that comes near it is mass murder or serial murder. That’s more the turf of the man Mrs. Arroyo once loved to call her hero.

Here’s what Tupas said:

“According to the Philippine National Police, Arroyo is not a flight risk. We asked doctors, and despite her medication, Arroyo has not been responding…,”

If it’s a physical problem, then all the more reason for her to stay put in the hospital. If Tupas is tip-toeing around the notion that Mrs. Arroyo is suffering from depression, I will commiserate. But that is still not enough reason for the special treatment. Any survey of any jail around the country will find a substantial percentage of prisoners saddled with the blues, whether they just be in the dumps or actually suffering from clinical depression.

There’s little reason for Mrs. Arroyo to be allowed the comforts of their sprawling La Vista residence. She has very comfortable space in that hospital. I doubt if more than a handful of soldiers wounded in battles aimed at preserving the republic have ever enjoyed that kind of accommodation.

News reports have quoted the prosecution opposing Mrs. Arroyo’s request for the Sandiganbayan to allow house arrest:

In a comment filed by the prosecution before the Sandiganbayan First Division, they opposed the former president’s Motion for Modified Custodial Arrangement, wherein she requested that she be transferred either to her Quezon City house or Lubao, Pampanga house.

The prosecution said “the argument raised by the accused that she be placed under house arrest runs counter to her actual medical conditions.”

The prosecution also emphasized that there is “no rule that allows house arrest to an accused whose bail petition and demurrer have been denied.”

Some people note: “But she’s a former president. Give her the respect she deserves.”

Last I checked, leaders — with all the privileges, perks and powers they enjoy — have very clear legal guidelines on what or what not to do during their terms of office.

Pomp and circumstance should not be mistaken for respect or one’s right to it.

Respect is earned when you do the right thing for the right reasons, no matter the difficult odds faced.

Those who, having been given plenty by the people, and choose to trample on their sacred tasks, are not deserving of respect.

That goes for officials of the incumbent administration, including President Aquino’s favorite protector, his chief dispenser of pork, as well as the Vice President.

This resolution has nothing to do with compassion. I suspect it is in aid of contributions. Or votes.

Nor am I surprised. Legislators once urged a pardon for convicted plunder president Joseph Estrada. He’s not only Mayor of Manila today; he is also thinking of running in the 2016 national elections — or positioning himself as king (or queen) maker.

[The prosecution handling Mrs. Arroyo’s cases have pointed out: “in Estrada’s case, his house, which was adjacent to the Philippine National Police’s Camp Capinpin, was converted into a police camp and was “for all intents and purposes” a police camp”. That didn’t stop the fun, by all accounts.]

You can only wonder who’s the next beneficiary of legislators’ bleeding hearts. Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile? And after this administration steps down, friends will remember and return the favor.

In fact, many so-called exit strategies in this country seemed aimed at finding protectors who will shield them from accountability.

And we wonder why some things never change. (Read more here)

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.