Arroyo in jail

We have no issue with jailing the corrupt, and putting behind bars those who are accused of dipping their hands into the public coffers.

We agree that public officials who commit these wrongs must be named and shamed. The money they take away from projects could generate jobs and build infrastructure that would help alleviate the plight of the poor and narrow the income gap in the country.

We believe that the drive against corruption should not distinguish between high-ranking officials and lowly public employees, and among perpetrators from whatever side of the political fence.

This is where we differ with the Aquino administration, which has a history of invoking the straight and narrow path and wielding the strong arm of justice—but only to those it perceives as its enemies.

The first example that comes to mind is the much-reviled immediate predecessor of President Benigno Aquino III, Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Mrs. Arroyo, 68 years old, is detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Hospital on charges of plunder of P366 million in “intelligence funds” of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

Mrs. Arroyo has been frail because of her cervical spondylosis, This has caused her difficulty in swallowing food. Meanwhile, there has been no significant progress in the trial of her case.

Earlier this month, a United Nations body, the UN High Commission on Human Rights Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, called for a reconsideration of Mr. Arroyo’s petition to file bail that had been denied by the First Division of the Sandiganbayan. The complaint was filed by a London based, Lebanese-born barrister, Aman Alamuddin Clooney.

According to the UN body, the denial of Mrs. Arroyo’s bail plea showed that the Sandiganbayan failed to take into account her individual circumstances, consider measures alternative to pre-trial detention. There are also undue delays in the proceedings.

Expectedly, administration officials dismissed the UN findings. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who is on her way out of her department to run for the Senate, and Palace spokesman Secretary Herminio Coloma, insisted that Mrs. Arroyo’s rights had not been violated and she had been afforded sufficient legal remedies.

Mrs. Arroyo, whose final days in office were marred with scandal and calls for her ouster, has been the poster child for this administration’s so-called battle with evil.

Unfortunately for Mrs. Arroyo, administration officials are treading the path not by building a strong case against her and ensuring swift trial, but by simply keeping her in jail. They mistake this for victory and righteousness.

Who would not want to know whether or not plunder was committed? Who would not want closure on whether or not this former president indeed violated the trust placed on her by the people?

The UN agency’s opinion would have of course no bearing on the case, which is the sole jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan. What is happening to the case, and why is it not moving, especially now that we are down to the last few months of the Aquino administration? Is the President deliberately allowing Mrs. Arroyo to wither, unable to discharge her legislative duties and unable to find refuge in the company of her family?

The call is not to let her go home, per se. The call is to present an airtight case and let the trial proceed at a decent pace.

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