POSTSCRIPT / December 11, 2011 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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As Noy vowed, GMA ‘in jail by Christmas’

DETENTION: Although former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is only detained — not imprisoned after conviction — President Noynoy Aquino has more or less made good his vow to put her “in jail” before Christmas.

Ms Arroyo is still presumed innocent under the Constitution. But it is clear that she now has to start adjusting to a life in detention at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City, a government facility, while the electoral sabotage charge against her is being heard.

Considering how slowly the wheels of justice grind in this country, she can expect to spend time at Veterans, or at an alternative place chosen by the court, during the entire term of President Aquino ending in 2016.

The only possible relief is for the Supreme Court to strike down as unconstitutional the Election Sabotage Law under which she was charged, or invalidate the process that led to the filing of the sabotage information, or rule that the case at the Pasay City Regional Trial Court was filed in the wrong venue.

Even if the electoral sabotage case is scuttled, she is likely to remain in detention as other big cases are being rushed for filing.

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HUMILIATION: But if it is true, as Ms Arroyo claims, that her conscience is clear — meaning she is innocent — for her own mental health she should not worry too much about the electoral sabotage charge. Let her lawyers worry about that.

If indeed she is innocent as claimed, her only real problem is the public humiliation to which she is being subjected outside the court process.

She is now reaping the fruit of years of negative reports and commentaries in the mass media. This is a public relations war that she, and her husband Mike Arroyo, had lost.

So damaged is the Arroyos’ credibility that the public is now inclined to believe any negative report against her and her husband even without evidence being offered.

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WHAT WENT WRONG?: With that reality, one constructive thing Ms Arroyo can do in detention is to do deep soul-searching.

There are still many who concede that she is better prepared technically than Mr. Aquino for the demanding job of steering a creaking ship of state adrift in a sea of economic problems.

In addition, as President she had a work ethic that challenged even her sturdiest assistants. Her big-ticket projects are all around for everybody to see. This achievement, however, is tainted by perceptions of corruption and other venalities.

So the question she might want to mull over in the relative peace and quiet of detention is: What went wrong?

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STILL A SOLON: For her to reflect deeper on that question, maybe she should limit her visitors outside family, as well as her viewing TV and accessing the Internet, so her distractions could be minimized.

But considering that she is a congresswoman representing the second district of Pampanga, and since she is still presumed innocent, she should be allowed the normal work facilities of a member of the House of Representatives.

She should be able to work in detention and, to the extent that her medical condition allows it, perform her legislative duties.

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NO FOI LAW: So low has the Philippines sunk in the esteem of the world that it now ranks 129th out of 182 countries rated in the latest Corruption Perceptions Index, making it the most corrupt in Southeast Asia, next to Cambodia that is 164th in the CPI ranking.

Thieves in government, as elsewhere, operate better in the dark. This dismal situation is not helped any by the continued refusal of the Congress to pass the Freedom of Information bill giving access to public records as a deterrent to corruption.

Although approved by the Senate, the FOI measure was not put to a vote in the House of Representatives in the 14thCongress.

To make matters worse, President Aquino held back Malacañang support for it, explaining that his office was drafting its own version, which is generally expected to be a watered-down rewrite.

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RIGHT TO KNOW: Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, the principal author in the Senate, commented: “It is about time government assured the people that their ‘right to know’ will not be hindered by the absence of enabling laws such as the FOI.

“The measure that seeks transparency and accountability in governance has been pending in the last 10 years, because some officials are still trapped in their ‘paranoia’ on issues such as breach of privacy.

“If the Aquino administration is sincere in pushing the fight against corruption, it should prioritize passage of enabling laws that guarantee transparency and accountability in all government transactions and public access to crucial projects.”

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FREE PROSTHETICS: Sylvia Muñoz Ordoñez of the Kapampangan Development Foundation has announced the giving away of free prosthetic limbs and wheelchairs by the KDF and the Clark Development Corp.

Beneficiaries are processed every first Wednesday (1-5 p.m.) and third Saturday (8-11 a.m.) of the month at the Jesus A. Datu Memorial Medical Center in San Vicente, Bacolor, Pampanga.

The prosthesis program runs parallel to a Mother and Child Free Clinic (free medical and dental services) held every Friday at 1-4 p.m. also at the JADMMC. Free dental services (all ages) are given every Thursdays at 8-11 a.m.

Patients, including those for free cataract, harelip and cleft palate surgery, can be referred to Melissa(JADMMC), Tel. 4580027, or to Precy (CDC, PRD), Tel. 5996911.

Meanwhile, CDC President Felipe Antonio B. Remollo has reported to the Metro Clark Advisory Council that exports from the Clark Freeport Zone reached $1.6 billion as of October 2011. It was only since 2009that CFZ exports hit the billionth mark – $1.03 billion in 2009 and $1.45 billion in 2010.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 11, 2011)

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