Most Filipinos have very short memories. Perhaps as we continue to be fascinated by the scenes that we see on television—a former president with support braces around her neck and head attempting to leave the country for several destinations purportedly to attend conferences as well as to seek medical assistance—we may feel a bit of sadness at her predicament. But let me refresh our collective memories.
During the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, there were two sets of justice systems in place. One was for her friends and allies; another was for her enemies and those perceived to be threats to her administration.
For her friends and allies, this is how it worked:
In 2004, the Supreme Court ruled that the Commission on Elections under Chairman Benjamin Abalos committed “violations of law and glaring abuse of discretion” in awarding a billion-peso contract to Mega Pacific Consortium for the supply of automated counting machines. It directed the government to determine criminal liability of public officials involved. Nothing happened. No one was prosecuted. And there were no moves to impeach members of the Comelec in the House of Representatives, which is the only way to get rid of members of a constitutional commission. The Filipino people lost over a billion pesos in the anomalous deal.
Just before the 2004 presidential elections, Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante, a former officer of Rotary International and close friend of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, was appointed agriculture undersecretary. According to Senate investigation reports, Bolante was the “architect” and “brains” in the diversion of P728 million in fertilizer funds to the Arroyo campaign kitty. During Senate hearings on the issue, he ignored all invitations and subpoenas by the body to testify on the allegations. The Arroyo government allowed him to leave the country—no hold-departure orders were issued. He applied for asylum in the United States claiming that New People’s Army hit squads were out to kill him. His passport was never canceled. It was the US government’s cancellation of his visa that caused his detention in a state facility in Wisconsin. When he returned to the Philippines after his asylum bid was denied, he ran for public office and was defeated. The Filipino farmers lost more than P700 million. Joc-Joc remains scot-free.
Again prior to the 2004 elections, Arroyo appointed to the Comelec a dubious character by the name of Virgilio Garcillano. At that time, Garcillano already had a reputation of being associated with electoral fraud. He was considered by many as the expert in “dagdag-bawas” operations in the past.
When the “Hello, Garci” tapes surfaced, Garcillano was nowhere to be found. There were reports that he was secretly taken out of the country on a private plane to Singapore or even London. Singapore authorities reported that he did arrive in Singapore but the Philippine government did not see fit to pursue this lead. Neither was his passport canceled. His presence and testimony would have helped in clearing the air regarding electoral tampering charges against Arroyo.
Perhaps the most remarkable act of friendship of Arroyo as president was the signing of a treaty with Spain entitled, “Treaty on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons between the Republic of the Philippines and the Kingdom of Spain.”
Paco Larrañaga, a Cebu resident and Spanish national, along with six others, were convicted by the Cebu Regional Trial Court in 1999 of kidnapping two sisters, Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong. The girls were taken to a house and repeatedly raped by the gang. Marijoy was blindfolded and pushed off a cliff. Her broken body was found but Jacqueline’s was never recovered. Four years later, the Supreme Court, not only affirmed their convictions, but also declared the men guilty of illegal detention with homicide and rape.
In the guise of reciprocity, the treaty allowed the transfer of Larrañaga to Spain.
For the friends of Arroyo, even a treaty can be produced and delivered on a silver platter. As far as I know, no Filipino has been repatriated from a Spanish jail back to the Philippines. Filipinos languishing in jails in other countries do not have the benefit of a similar treaty as that signed with Spain. Philippine Ambassador Carlos Salinas should check if Larrañaga is still in prison or under house arrest. He is supposed to serve a 40-year prison term.
Now if you were an enemy or seen as a threat to the Arroyo government, this was how the justice system worked:
Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, who blew the whistle on the notorious ZTE-NBN broadband project that was overpriced by some $130 million, arrived from Hong Kong in February 2008. He was met by armed men who took his luggage and led him down to the airport tarmac without passing immigration or customs.
Inside a van, he was given a grand tour of the South Luzon Expressway for several hours before being reunited with his family in La Salle Greenhills. He was asked to sign all kinds of statements basically to justify his abduction. Policemen do not just carry out these activities on their own. Someone orchestrated the whole operation and someone higher than the conductor was calling the shots.
After a while, all sorts of charges were thrown at Lozada. His life was in danger and his family had to stay with members of a religious order. Their world was turned upside down.
In July 2003, Navy Lt. Antonio Trillanes and some 300 officers and men, occupied Oakwood Hotel in Makati City. After some 20 hours of negotiations with a government-appointed panel, they agreed to give up their arms and surrender under the Articles of War. The late Max Soliven, one of the negotiators, wrote, “Military justice is what they were unanimously pledged by the government—not prosecution in the regular justice system.”
Arroyo did not honor this commitment. Trillanes was tried by a civil court and kept in detention for seven years and seven months, the same length of time that Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. spent in prison.
As the Golden Rule points out, “Do unto others as you would wish them to do unto you.”
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