Today is International Human Rights Day. And it is fitting that earlier this week, the Supreme Court has allowed probably the most prominent victim of state-sponsored violations of human rights, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, furloughs during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
The Yellow crowd will never accept this, of course, but what President Noynoy Aquino did to Arroyo is terribly unjust and borderline inhuman. You don’t have to take my word for it—that’s the United Nations talking, through its Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.
Last October, that five-man UN panel ruled that the Philippine government should grant Arroyo bail, “in accordance with the relevant international human rights standards and accord Ms. Arroyo with an enforceable right to compensation… for the deprivation of liberty which already occurred.” But the Aquino administration, which is always so proud of having thrown Arroyo in jail despite the flimsy charges filed against her, said it cannot interfere with a purely judicial proceeding.
That is garbage, of course. If the Department of Justice, the Office of the Ombudsman and all the other agencies instructed to keep Arroyo in jail at all costs did not lean on the courts all the time, she would not have spent even a day in jail.
This is also why the only case that is pending against Arroyo, that of alleged plunder for having put a marginal note approving of a request by the former board of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office for the release of “blood money” for detained Filipino workers in the Middle East, is keeping her at the Veterans Hospital in Quezon City. All the board members of the PCSO who drafted the aid resolution and who approved the fund release—and even the Commission on Audit chairman at the time—who were named as Arroyo’s fellow respondents in the same case have since been acquitted.
Especially in the early years of this supposedly righteous administration, very few had the guts to question the actions of agencies hell-bent on pinning Arroyo down for her alleged terrible crimes. Still, the incontrovertible fact remains that nearly six years after it started its monomaniacal get-Gloria campaign, the current government has not found any case that will stick and send her to jail for good.
As for the current case, any judge and lawyer will tell you that it is not only insupportable on its merits. It also makes a mockery of a justice system that should only deny bail to people who are flight risks or who have committed terrible crimes.
But Aquino will not even allow Arroyo’s release on bail, perhaps because he sincerely believes that people want his predecessor to remain in detention for whatever cause he and his minions can think of until the end of his term. And to assume, as even international rights advocates like Amal Alamuddin Clooney has assumed, that Aquino will bow to an international body like the UN when it comes to matters involving Arroyo is to be very much mistaken.
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What Aquino probably fails to realize is that the same lack of humanity and penchant for unfair prosecution that he displayed for his predecessor could very well be showed him, as well, as soon as he steps down from office in the middle of next year. And because his chosen candidate looks like he is going to end up at the tail-end of the elections next May, Aquino the Unmerciful will have to take his chances with a new government that owes him nothing—and which probably has been victimized by his take-no-prisoners politicking, as well.
Make no mistake: Aquino is no saint, even if no cases of corruption have been lodged against him—yet. There will be no shortage of reasons to detain Aquino when the time comes because of his misuse of the pork barrel funds of Congress and his co-creation of the Disbursement Acceleration Program, to name just two corruption-laden schemes that he conceived and wholeheartedly implemented.
(Arroyo, to her credit, allowed former President Joseph Estrada house arrest and even pardoned him after his conviction. And the Sandiganbayan, which tried Estrada’s cases, actually held a real trial after proceeding way beyond the bail hearings for Erap’s case—a privilege that Arroyo was never granted.)
Of course, the only reason why Aquino remains uncharged right now is because his office gives its holder immunity from prosecution. But I’m betting that, as soon as Aquino steps down on June 30, all sorts of people will be trooping to the Ombudsman and all the other venues where they can file charges against the newly-vulnerable ex-President.
Then the shoe will be on the other foot, and Aquino will probably whine that he is the victim of malicious persecution and human rights violation. And if there really is any justice, Aquino will be thrown in jail, as well.
And you know what? The same people who cheered for him upon his victory in 2010 will be glad that Aquino will now get what he deserves for letting them down and doing nothing except going after enemies of his like Arroyo.
I can hardly wait.