MANILA - A political analyst sees some degree of political posturing in the recent visits of critics to former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
This, after retired Lingayan, Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz visited Arroyo last Saturday.
Cruz was the latest Arroyo critic to visit the detained former leader, following former Presidents Fidel Ramos in November and Joseph Estrada in December, and evangelist Brother Eddie Villanueva of the Jesus is Lord Movement.
Cruz criticized Arroyo during her presidency for jueteng in the country.
Arroyo rose to the presidency in 2001 after Estrada was deposed during EDSA 2.
Meanwhile, relations between Arroyo and Ramos turned sour over efforts to amend the 1987 charter during the Arroyo administration, as well as party matters pertaining to the Lakas CMD that both led.
Villanueva was a rival in the 2004 elections. His son, Joel Villanueva, is TESDA director-general under the Aquino administration.
Professor Prospero de Vera of the UP National College of Public Administration and Governance thinks there may be some political posturing on the part of the visitors, since they are also now critics of the current administration.
"Para sa akin, it's political posturing on the part of avowed critics of GMA who also became critics of the current administration, especially because it's Christmas time, they're using the spirit of season to go see the former president," he said.
"I don't think there's any significant realignment or mobilization of forces towards supporting GMA," he added.
De Vera believes Arroyo may be playing along since the visits of critics tend to soften her public image. Arroyo left the presidency amid very low popularity ratings.
"If there's one person who's extremely happy, it's (Arroyo). It brings her back to the public spotlight in a situation neither confrontational nor highly politicized. Second, some of the people visiting were her critics (and) it softens up her image and administration," he said.
"Parang nung panahon ni Erap, when Erap was in Tanay originally, the only ones visiting were his former Cabinet members and later on those aspiring for political office started visiting him. He became legitimized because of constant visits. If this continues in the coming year and national leaders with no clear agenda visit her, I think it's going to be better for the former President."
'NO SHIFT IN PUBLIC OPINION'
De Vera thinks that while there is no shift in public outrage at Arroyo over her time as President, there may be a shift in public perception of her as a person amid her medical condition, her silence on political issues, and the slow pace of cases she is facing.
"Sa political side, walang significant shift dahil ang mga kaso, buhay na buhay. Galit pa rin sa nangyari sa nakaraang admin pero on the humane side, may significant shift sa pagtingin ng Pilipino. Medical condition, nakatulong dahil 'di combative si GMA. She has not attacked the administration. She has been very silent even if the admin attacks her, she doesn't answer or attack back. That's something people recognize."
De Vera said some of the cases against Arroyo are difficult to prosecute. "Unang-una, ibang kaso mahina from the start. No amount of pressure of aggressive prosecution can undo the fact that some cases are legally weak. This is admitted by even those who filed the cases. Sa ibang kaso, sa dami ng ebidensiya na hinarap at sa dami ng kailangan facts of the case, 'di pwede pabilisan ang kaso, It's not so much an indictment on the inability of current administration to prosecute her (but it) has something to do with cases inherently difficult to prosecute," he explained.
"That's the problem of the current administration and perception of the public. There's impatience. Nothing seems happening, as the current administration starts having problems of its own, the problems of the previous admin start to recede in the background."
'NO ALLIANCE BREWING'
De Vera and political strategist Malou Tiqua, however, believe there is no alliance brewing among the visitors and Arroyo.
Tiquia said the former Presidents have political incompatibilities that make any alignment unlikely despite the visits.
"Tingin ko, dapat pagbabasa doon sa kagustuhan ng leader na tignan si dating Pangulong Arroyo. Kamustahin siya dahil Bagong Taon o magpa-Pasko," Tiquia said.
She dismissed talks of an alliance as propaganda to shore up anti-Arroyo sentiments and pointed out that the main point of the visits is for Arroyo to be given due courtesies as a former President.
Tiquia said Arroyo allowed Estrada to seek medical treatment for his knee overseas when he was detained.
'PURELY HEALTH CONCERN'
Arroyo's congressional chief of staff, Raul Lambino, said the visits were purely out of concern for Arroyo's health, which has deteriorated.
Arroyo detained on a plunder charge over the alleged misuse of half a billion pesos in PCSO intelligence funds.
Lambino claimed that the former President's medical condition has not improved.
Arroyo suffers from complications from the cervical spine surgery to address a pinched nerve 2 years ago.
Lambino said the latest medical certificate submitted to the anti-graft court said the former president's health has not improved.
The certificate forms part of the arguments submitted to the court as part of the motion for reconsideration of the court's denial of her petition to bail.
That case is now being handled by a new lawyer, Modesto Ticman, after a mutual decision by the Arroyo camp and former legal counsel Anacleto Diaz for the latter to withdraw.
"Wala pang trial proper sa Sandiganbayan. She has been detained more than 1 year already," Lambino said.
Lambino recalled details of Cruz's visit, which came just moments before Arroyo's vice-president, Noli de Castro arrived to visit her as well.
"Napaka-cordial. Sabi ni Archbishop Cruz, sana maunawaan ng dating pangulo, ang criticisms walang personal na galit. He was just telling what he observes to be not right. Naintidihan namang ng dating Pangulo. Ikinatutuwa niya na wala siyang narinig sa dating Pangulo na masamang salita," he said.
"I saw Archbishop Cruz gifted former President Arroyo a box, a rosary. They talked with each other privately. We let them talk by themselves," he added.