The lucky Joshua Roberto Ignacio Arroyo
It has been a year since the sting operation on Nov. 28, 2016. Agents of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) effectively handled the buy-bust maneuver. We can only imagine what prior hot-pursuit operation they had managed with adroitness that led to the successful conclusion of the dragnet.
The target of the hunt was certainly to be outclassed, pun intended. He was well-to-do. And under the scheme of political things in the Duterte administration, his grand aunt was out of jail, out from her neck brace and wheelchair, and was in fact touted by President Duterte himself as his “boss.”
Speaking last Dec. 7 in Pampanga, Duterte confessed to his audience his soul’s allegiance to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. “I owe her a lot,” he bared. “I was a very close confidant. We talked about state affairs and, particularly, law and order.”
Many of us who are not lawyers had clearly understood that Arroyo’s incarceration during the Aquino administration only exposed the fact that the charges it had brought upon her were weak. Aquino also sponsored his share of charades that left a bad taste in the mouth, how presidential sway can be abused for political vendetta — a script none too familiar by now as we read the Leila de Lima case.
But if we may ask, what happened to GMA’s neck brace? There’s the rub — she was equally as farcical as her jailer. This practice of political make-believe must be stopped.
And so it was under the shadow of Arroyo’s political renaissance (and what commanding renaissance it is with her political lieutenants appointed to Cabinet positions) that PDEA agents in Bacolod City arrested her husband’s grandnephew Joshua Roberto Ignacio Arroyo that day in 2016.
The arrest took place under impressive circumstances, the buy-bust venue inside a pension house. Bylined by Carla Gomez, Inquirer reported that Arroyo suffered a gunshot wound in the arm after he allegedly tried to stop a PDEA agent from entering his room which was next to the room of Manuel “Maui” Huelar Jr., Barangay (village) 35 captain, who was the subject of the operation. Arroyo was taken to the hospital while the two others were detained (“Arroyo kin, 2 others nabbed in drug bust,” 11/30/16).
And thus began the conundrum: The two others arrested with Arroyo — his stepbrother Christian Mijares and Huelar — face nonbailable charges and remain in detention, Julius Navales, the then PDEA director for Negros Island Region, has said.
Arroyo was later released from police custody. What happened behind the public’s prying eyes of accountability? Only the Bacolod City prosecutor knows. It was that office that directed PDEA to free Joshua Roberto Ignacio Arroyo from detention. The explanation—the resolution of the complaint against him of illegal drug possession was pending. Yet Navales had publicly confirmed, “Two small packs of shabu were seized from Arroyo.” But the city prosecutor recommended only “further investigation” of Arroyo.
It is in the lens of the Arroyo arrest that we see the finest description of Mr. Duterte’s “drug war”: Arroyo is lucky because he is protected by the state’s powers that be. If he was poor and lived in a lean-to of a hovel, he would have been “tokhanged” by now, needless to say. Not that we want him dead. But we also do not want him out from jail because it is in jail where he belongs. His two cohorts were charged with nonbailable crimes.
Now that the drug war is back in the hands of the Philippine National Police, expect drugs to stay for good, even beyond 2022 when Mr. Duterte’s term ends. There are many things wrong when the law is applied without egalitarianism, not to mention that it gives fodder to suspicions behind the real motives of this “war,” the justifications of which have not yet been proven to be credible.
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