The total unmasking of the ‘Arroyo Court’
Neal Cruz had it all figured out: During her nine-year presidency, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did all she could to ensure her protection from anticipated legal problems once she was out of power.
First, Cruz said, she appointed Merceditas Gutierrez, a law classmate and friend of her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, as ombudsman. Next, she loaded the Sandiganbayan, the anti-graft court, with “friendly” justices. Then she packed the Supreme Court with her appointees.
I agree with Cruz completely.
Arroyo must have known deep inside her that she had abused her power as president and that she had transgressed the Constitution and the laws of the land not once but many times over. She must have been aware that sooner or later, she had to face her comeuppance. She could also have foreseen the time when, like former President Joseph Estrada, she could be on the dock to face a long-drawn criminal trial that could lead to her conviction and imprisonment.
Not all her plans seemed to be working fine. Her reliance on the Office of the Ombudsman for protection of herself, her husband and their minions now facing charges collapsed when Gutierrez resigned.
Well, “her” Supreme Court is still intact, led by a chief justice she appointed a few days before she stepped down from the presidency. Judging from a number of cases brought before it, the high court had indeed lived up to its name as the “Arroyo Court.” The first proof is when it trashed the petition questioning the appointment of Renato Corona as chief justice as a “midnight appointment.” Second is its decision declaring unconstitutional the Truth Commission created by President Aquino to investigate the corruption scandals during the past administration.
The Court betrayed its true pro-Arroyo colors in its issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the watch-list order issued by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to prevent Arroyo from fleeing the country. Arroyo’s lawyers filed a petition questioning the validity of the watch-list order. With undue haste and Chief Justice Renato Corona allegedly hurrying home from a trip abroad to join the deliberation on the petition, the tribunal issued the TRO. All the fuss over the TRO’s being effective and immediately executory was rendered moot and academic with the issuance of a warrant of arrest by the Pasay City Regional Trial Court against Arroyo on a charge of electoral sabotage.
But it seems that all is not lost in Arroyo’s struggle to extricate herself from the criminal suits filed against her. If and when found guilty and convicted by a court of law, she surely would run to the Supreme Court and cry for help. That will be the time when the tribunal’s independence could be put to another acid test. If the high court’s past pro-Arroyo rulings were to be the gauge, the likelihood is that it will run true to form as the “Arroyo Court.”
—JAMES JOSEPH GABRIEL,
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.