Not to be outdone, Edcel Lagman has come up with his two-cents’ worth too. There’s history, he says, to argue for putting his favorite non-president under house arrest. The list of famous and infamous people who met with that fate includes Augusto Pinochet, Paris Hilton, Nikita Khrushchev, Aung San Suu Kyi and Galileo Galilei.
Now, how weird is that?
At the very least, that’s so because as our Inquirer story pointed out, for every person you can name that got meted house arrest, you can name just as many or more who met with much harsher fates than being kept in a detention center. South Korean presidents Roh Tae-woo and Chun Doo-huan were summarily thrown in jail after being arrested for a variety of crimes, the former kept in solitary confinement for a time. The same was true of Taiwan’s president Chen Shui-bian.
That does not include the fate of hated leaders like Nicolae Ceausescu, Benito Mussolini and Mohammad Najibullah who were torn limb from limb by an irate mob. Najibullah in particular was castrated, dragged to death by a truck, and hung from a traffic light with his balls stuffed to his mouth. A pity Ferdinand Marcos did not stay around to see if Filipinos and their Christian charity were less given to these passions than Afghans and their Islamic sense of retribution.
At the very most, while Arroyo is in perfectly good company with Nikita Khrushchev, Augusto Pinochet and Paris Hilton, she is not with Galileo and Suu Kyi. I can imagine that for someone like the peripatetic and party-loving Hilton, being confined to one’s domicile must be torture of hideous proportions. And so richly deserves it. But Hilton was arrested for reckless driving, not for reckless robbing.
While at this, I don’t know where Lagman got the idea that Khrushchev was placed under house arrest. In fact, after Khruschev was ousted, he was given a dacha and 500 rubles a month. He went into a depression afterward and spent his last years writing his memoirs, but writing at home however that may seem like punishment to many people is not known to be a form of house arrest. Or else I would have been under it for the last 25 years.
What takes the cake, however, and reflects on the quality of mind of Arroyo’s defenders, is that Lagman should put her on the same footing as Galileo and Suu Kyi. How different is Arroyo from both?
Let me count the ways:
Galileo was arrested for saying that the earth revolved around the sun, going against the powerful Church which preached otherwise. Arroyo was arrested for believing that the world revolved around her, conscripting the powerful Church to aid her in preaching the notion. Galileo was a man of science who extolled truth and detested ignorance. Arroyo was a woman of ambition who extolled ignorance and detested truth. Galileo did publicly recant at some point, saying “I am sorry” for having stolen from people their comforting belief that they were the pinnacle of creation. Arroyo did publicly recant at some point, or gave a verisimilitude of it, saying “I… am…sorry,” but clung on anyway and strove even more to attain the pinnacle of power.
Galileo never wavered in his beliefs anyway, which were later proven to be true. Arroyo never wavered in her claims, which were forthwith proven to be false. Galileo told the truth and suffered the consequences of it. Arroyo told the lie, and enjoyed the benefactions of it. Galileo was persecuted wrongfully, Arroyo is being prosecuted rightfully. Galileo’s fate spoke of the terrors of the Inquisition. Arroyo’s fate speaks of the wonders of the Enlightenment. History shows that Galileo should never have been put under arrest, house or not. History will show Arroyo should have been arrested long ago, sick or not.
From the other end, Suu Kyi gained world renown for battling a repressive regime. Arroyo gained world renown for mounting a repressive regime. Suu Kyi has shown enormous courage in the face of the junta’s threats for her to stand down or be put down. Arroyo has shown enormous temerity in the face of the people’s demands for her to step down or be swept away. Suu Kyi’s resistance to tyranny has been a source of inspiration to her people. Arroyo’s resistance to jail has been a source of merriment to her people. Suu Kyi continues to fight heroically to gain freedom for her country. Arroyo continues to fight desperately to retain freedom for herself. Suu Kyi risks life and limb to champion the law. Arroyo risks laughter and derision to dodge the law.
Suu Kyi is the Cory of Burma. Arroyo is the junta of the Philippines. Suu Kyi is being persecuted viciously. Arroyo is being prosecuted fittingly. Suu Kyi’s fate reminds us of the terrors of repression. Arroyo’s fate teaches us a lesson in liberation. By all rights, Suu Kyi should be at the head of her government right now. By all rights Arroyo should be at the pit of a cell right now.
But in the end, it’s not a matter of precedent or what others have done, it is a matter of justice and what we ought to do. Giving Arroyo to enjoy the comforts of home while awaiting trial for a multitude of monstrosities merely gives her more of the “executive privilege” she has always claimed for herself. It is an insult to the Morong 43 who were arrested without warrant and languished in jail without being charged. It is an injury to Francisco Gudani and Alexander Balutan who were seized and jailed for telling the truth. It is an insult and injury to the hundreds of political activists who were made to argue their innocence only in the afterlife.
It’s not just Arroyo who’s on trial here, we are too. How we deal with her is the test of our mettle. What we do with her is the test of our character. Heaven forbid that we are judged and found:
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