Should government allow Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to leave the country and seek medical treatment abroad?
It’s complicated business, but offhand I’d say yes.
No one, more than me, would like to see the First Couple jailed but I myself would not mind seeing government allow Gloria at least, if not Mike, to get treatment for her condition abroad. Notwithstanding the real risk that she might not come back at all. She says of course that she will, as does her family, but she also said she would not run for president and she did. It’s even odds, at the very least, either way. That’s the price you pay for crying wolf much too often.
I don’t know how Gloria is today, though I hear she is in quite a bad shape, her operation for spinal implants having gone way way south, giving her new insights into Job’s lot. Which the irreverent will attribute to karma, on the part of both wife and husband: To have accumulated all that wealth and be unable to enjoy it! But maybe the accumulation was the real trip for them.
No matter. Government does have every right to disbelieve and demand proof that she has truly reached that pass before giving her the authority to travel. Again that is the price you pay for crying wolf too often. Quite apart from that, there’s the question of why you need to go abroad for it. The First Couple’s favorite hospital, St. Luke’s, is not exactly a patsy in the medical field. In fact, it’s at the top of its game if only for the almost miraculous way it revived Mike after his heart attack while in Baguio four years ago and after being flown in by a helicopter to St. Luke’s grounds.
But no matter too. The upside of intransigence is that it shows the P-Noy administration to be totally committed to pursuing its campaign against corruption. In the past, critics have panned it for substituting words for deeds or running only after the small fry. I was one of those that did. Well, you can’t get bigger fish than the former First Couple, the corruption in their case taking on the Marcosian form not just of epic pillage but also of epic illegitimacy. To finally have gotten to them and to pursue them relentlessly, that is admirable. But so in ordinary circumstances. These are not ordinary circumstances, or so in a culture such as ours.
The upside will be more than upended by the downside. If Gloria’s condition gets worse or, heaven forbid, if something worse happens to her while she remains here, government will be blamed for it. And that is putting it mildly: The stridence of her camp will go off the charts. For all you know, her doctors at St. Luke’s might truly have given up on her condition and urged her to seek help abroad—if only to safeguard their reputation as healers of the first order. A thing that will come into a question if something should happen to her under their watch. Why should government want to risk the same thing?
As it is, even without that, P-Noy can, and will, be depicted by his enemies as practicing double standards. You can almost hear the hysterical announcers in AM radio lambasting him for being weak-kneed before the killers of the soldiers in Al-Barka, refusing as he has to unsheathe the sword of war upon them, and being iron-willed toward a former president who is sick, and a woman at that, and a small woman at that. All the violins will be playing, enough to make the stones weep.
Sensitivity to Filipino culture is in order. Or it is what the doctor ordered. It is the hardest thing arguing against emotion, however right you are. This is a culture that is not always able to distinguish between justice and revenge, prosecution and persecution, doggedness and relentlessness, a thing every tyrant, or plain wrongdoer, in this country has tried to work to his advantage. Successfully or unsuccessfully depending on whether they have been visited by a tragedy or not. Having been visited by tragedy is a natural appeal to the culture of awa, as witness Angelo Reyes, who shot himself in the heart, and Miguel Zubiri, who resigned as senator after serving illegitimately for four years, who both nearly turned from heel to hero overnight.
The thing is, government doesn’t have to compromise its principles by allowing Gloria to leave. It can still institute legal proceedings against her even in her absence. It can still question the legitimacy of the last six years of her rule, and voiding it where she is found to have stolen the vote, as “Hello Garci” must assuredly make her out to have done. About time we recognized the real winner of the 2004 elections, who is probably FPJ, as a matter of restitution, as a matter of making amends.
Government can still hound her for plunder over and beyond the call of venality. Who knows? Maybe her departure, or flight, might embolden Romy Neri to swear to his failure to moderate the First Couple’s greed.
If she refuses to return as she has promised, she can always be extradited, assuming she has gone to a country that has an extradition treaty with us, and assuming her health permits it. Barring that, government can always move against her estate in cases where she is found guilty of the charges, again assuming that the places she has carted off her ill-gotten wealth to, allow expropriation or at least the freezing of assets. Refusing to return, in any case, is flight, and flight is the clearest admission of guilt.
It may not be as satisfying as seeing the First Couple jailed, apart or sharing a cell, the latter being the infinitely worse punishment, but it’s as best as you can get under the circumstances. It serves the ends of justice while showing government to be morally superior to the one it replaced, one capable of showing compassion where compassion is due.
Some horror stories can have a happy ending.
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