FORMER President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo faced reporters for the first time on Monday and said being freed from detention has been good for her health.
The former leader, one of the new deputy speakers of the House, was asked how she was doing since the Supreme Court ordered the dismissal of a plunder charge filed against her, and her freedom, in July.
“Freedom is always very healthy. But, I don’t know for sure until I have my check up two weeks from now,” Arroyo told reporters in her first news conference in the House of Representatives since she was placed on hospital arrest in November 2011.
The Pampanga lawmaker is set to leave for Munich, Germany on September 20 together with her husband, lawyer Jose Miguel Arroyo, for a health checkup.
The Arroyo couple will visit Paris, France and Hong Kong after Germany.
De Lima probe
The former President weighed in on the looming House probe on the proliferation of illegal drugs in the New Bilibid Prison under the tenure of former Justice secretary Leila de Lima, now a senator.
“I am very confident that due process is going to be pursued, unlike the time when I was being persecuted,” Arroyo said, referring to the previous Aquino administration’s filing of electoral sabotage, plunder and graft charges against her.
The cases have been dismissed, save for the graft charge involving the botched $329-million National Broadband Project still pending before the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court.
De Lima served as the Justice secretary of the Aquino administration and was crucial in preventing Arroyo from leaving the country to seek treatment for her problematic spine abroad back in November 2011.
‘Duterte a stronger leader’
Arroyo also said President Rodrigo Duterte was the stronger leader compared with her.
She threw her support behind President Duterte’s declaration of a State of Lawless Violence in the aftermath of the Davao explosion last Friday that killed 14 people and left dozens injured.
The declaration allows the President to call out the military to help police suppress lawless violence.
“I did not experience them [security forces]being abusive, and I don’t think they will abuse it now. Besides, President Duterte is a much stronger leader than I am. If I could handle them [security forces]very well, he can handle them so much better,” Arroyo, who was President from 2001 to 2010, told reporters.
Arroyo herself declared a State of Lawless Violence in Davao City in April 2003 because of the twin bombings at the Davao International Airport and Sasa Wharf that killed 38 people and wounded 100 others.
She also declared Martial law in Maguindanao in November 2009 in the aftermath of the Maguindanao massacre that killed 57 journalists.
“I was doing the same thing during my time [as President]. It is the right thing to do. If the threat is national [in scope], then it is right that the President issue such. When I had problems in Mindanao, I would ask Mayor Duterte to handle it for me and he handled it very well. I’m sure he will handle it just as well, if not better, for himself,” Arroyo added.
Duterte had served as Arroyo’s adviser on peace and order as well as drug and kidnapping problems.
“President Duterte knows all the lessons because he was helping me a lot during my time. When there is a state of lawlessness, I always call upon him. He knows my experience. He knows all the lessons,” Arroyo said.