MANILA, Philippines – The irony was not lost on militant groups and some Twitter users.
Two days after President Benigno Aquino III rejected a “forgive and forget” attitude toward his predecessor, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was freed on bail in the electoral sabotage case.
In his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 23, Aquino said, “Hindi ko po matatanggap ito. Forgive and forget na lang ang sampung taon na nawala sa atin?” (We cannot accept this. Do we just forgive and forget the 10 years that we lost?)
Aquino was referring to the almost one-decade rule of Arroyo, whom he has painted as the face of graft and corruption.
For Aquino allies in the Senate, the ruling of the Pasay Regional Trial Court granting Arroyo bail does not contradict Aquino’s SONA.
“Perhaps it’s the opposite,” said Sen Francis Escudero in Filipino. “President Aquino said the filing of cases against anyone and President Arroyo is giving them the chance to respond, explain and give their side in accordance with due process because the administration can’t try the case, decide and judge.”
Aquino partymate Sen Franklin Drilon also came to his defense.
“The right to bail is the right of an accused but government will not go slow in prosecuting GMA …. As PNoy said in his SONA, this is not vindictiveness. This is about justice and holding public officials accountable for their actions.”
Escudero, however, conceded that he was dismayed with the decision.
“Of course, that’s natural but it shows that President Aquino’s government does not control or try to control the judge and the court even if it does not agree with the rulings.”
‘PCSO case very strong’
Despite the bail order, several senators said Arroyo is not yet off the hook. Arroyo is still facing a plunder case before the Sandiganbayan for the alleged misuse of P366 million in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds. The Sandiganbayan issued an order barring her from leaving the country.
The Ombudsman filed the case last week, right before the SONA, based on recommendations of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
In a statement, Committee Chairman Sen Teofisto “TG” Guingona III said Arroyo will not be as “successful” in the PCSO case.
“The evidence against her in the PCSO case is very strong. We must remember that she has never denied her participation in the approval of huge amounts of money. Her marginal notes of approval are on record, clearly affirmed and testified to by Rosario Uriarte, former General Manager of the PCSO.”
Senator Panfilo Lacson agreed. He said the PCSO plunder case will not allow Arroyo to post bail.
“I’m not worried there. I saw the evidence presented before the Senate and that’s the bulk of the evidence brought to the court or the Sandiganbayan.”
‘PR does not make strong case’
While Lacson said he does want to get into a blame game on the bail order, he took a swipe at Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
The Justice Department took part in the preliminary investigation of the case through the joint DOJ-Commission on Elections panel.
The former fugitive is a staunch critic of De Lima, stemming from the latter’s decision to insist on an arrest warrant against him despite the Court of Appeals’ dismissal of the Dacer-Corbito double murder case.
“One obvious lesson learned from the experience is: we cannot build up a strong case through press releases and media interviews,” Lacson said.
“Rather, it takes hard work and the gift of skill and well-rounded knowledge of law, not to mention the rules of court and proper legal procedures to accomplish the same.”
By Ayee Macaraig
25 July 2012
'NO FORGIVE, FORGET.' In his SONA, President Aquino rejected the mentality that alleged anomalies during the Arroyo administration must be forgiven and forgotten. Photo by Malacañang Photo Bureau