MANILA -- President Benigno Aquino III’s has the power to give the green light for his predecessor’s house arrest.
According to Ateneo School of Government Dean Antonio “Tony” La Viña, the issue of house arrest is always a “political decision” that is separate from all the legal aspects.
“The President always has wide latitude on detention for safety, [and for] other reasons. Of course, it has to be approved by the court, but if the President asks or does not object, it will be ordered,” La Viña told ABS-CBNnews.com.
Arroyo is still hoping to be granted bail by the Sandiganbayan in connection with the alleged plunder of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds. As a result, her camp has not yet entertained the idea of a house arrest.
Nonetheless, some of her critics have already called for house arrest for humanitarian reasons. She had even received a string of high-profile well-wishers at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, where she is under hospital arrest because of cervical spondylosis or chronic wear of the spine.
Asked anew for comment, Malacanang maintains the Sandiganbayan has sole jurisdiction over the matter.
“We do not have any ill-will towards the former president. We also wish her well. However, we have to understand that there is a legal system. The Sandiganbayan already has jurisdiction over her case,” Communications Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma Jr. told radio dzRB.
In a separate interview with ABS-CBN’s "Bottomline," La Viña said, “Until she’s convicted, I’m in favor of house arrest. There has to be a certain respect for a former president,” noting that this is practiced all over the world in the case of former presidents.
Some analysts disagreed, however.
University of the Philippines Sociology professor Nicole Curato said Arroyo’s hospital arrest is already the humanitarian component in the case.
The issue now provides an “ethical context” amid a political scenario, she said.
Arroyo remains unpopular with the current administration and in several of his speeches, Aquino has blamed Arroyo for many cases of corruption in government today.
UP Political Science professor Clarita Carlos also pointed out some prisoners can’t even be accorded hospital arrest.
The recent visits of former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada at the VMMC have fueled talks that they are forming a political alliance against Aquino.
But the political experts immediately shot down such speculations, with La Viña saying it’s a long shot that these three are already talking political alliances.
“It’s like water and oil, they can’t blend together. I could not even imagine Ramos with Estrada, and Estrada with Arroyo,” he said.
Carlos added that when the rumors started swirling, it was a slow news day.
“The Ramos visit was in October, there was a considerable time [between that and Estrada’s visit]. Maybe the media people did not have anything to write about that day,” she said.