• Gloria Arroyo: Aquino’s trophy prisoner



    The idea came in a flash at the dining table on Christmas eve. The family was talking about the latest political gossip and aggravations. About how PNoy was taking a three-day leave to get his coughing fits under control.

    About Czar Lacson’s multiple bank accounts in the US. About Mayor Binay’s dustup in Dasmariñas Village. About MVP Pangilinan’s insatiable greed in the utility business. And then suddenly from out of the blue, the thought of President Arroyo as trophy prisoner struck me like a thunderbolt from heaven, amusing at first and then mutating into an itch that needed to be scratched. And now this Christmas morning, anno domini 2013, it’s demanding to be written down—thought about, analyzed and argued.

    Because Christmas for us Filipinos has always been more about family than food, today’s column is a meditation on the strange case of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo—her continued detention in a hospital since she  left  office  and her descent into near anonymity under the vengeful eyes of BS Aquino.

    The idea that she is a trophy prisoner struck a chord because as far back as I can remember, putting her behind bars was always the obsession of Aquino. He talked about it during his campaign for the presidency in 2010. He incessantly talked about it once ensconced in Malacañang.

    Now, three and a half years after ascending to office, and in the twilight of his watch, he still boasts that her being detained is a high point of his presidency.

    In a country that disputes everything, including when a human being can be considered dead and qualified to become a casualty statistic, how did President Aquino succeed in keeping GMA in detention for so long without giving her a proper trial, without her getting bailed or getting freed, without the alarming state of her health getting full consideration, and without our people demanding that she be given justice or freed.

    A trophy for display
    The reason, I submit, is that GMA is a trophy for display of President Aquino.

    The trophy idea first came into vogue with the popularization of the term “trophy wife” to refer to a wife, usually young and attractive, who is regarded as a status symbol for the husband, who is often older and wealthy. William Safire, the language maven, claimed that the term trophy wife was coined by Julie Connelly, a senior editor of Fortune magazine, in a cover story in the issue of August 28, 1989, and it immediately entered common usage.

    Since then, trophy wives have been a regular staple in US politics, business and entertainment.

    By the same token, one can also have a trophy girlfriend—which is the distinction of Sen. Francis Escudero, who found a willing trophy in entertainer Heart Evangelista.

    President Aquino evidently thought about getting a trophy wife or girlfriend himself, when he dated a young female politician from Valenzuela City, but then she flew the coop and hitched up with another politician. He also tried a Korean substitute (the fourth K after KKK), but this also did not pan out.

    So with President Aquino the bachelor, we can do a parody of Anderson Cooper and declare: “There is no wife, no girlfriend, and definitely no children to crow about.”

    This left him in the odd predicament of needing another trophy to put on display. This is where his trophy prisoner comes in. And her name is Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former president of the republic for nearly 10 years, and, if we can believe her associates, the architect-economist of 40 continuous quarters of growth of the Philippine economy.

    Update on cases vs. Arroyo
    To get a quick update on Arroyo’s cases, and on the off-chance that the Internet might yield something, I googled the topic “Gloria Arroyo’s cases.”

    Surprise, surprise, it came up with a full story published in early 2013 on the ABS-CBN website, and headlined “Cases vs. GMA going nowhere”

    In a statement, Arroyo lawyer Raul Lambino said that the cases filed against Arroyo were unraveling. He said that of all the corruption allegations against Arroyo, only one has kept her in detention—the PCSO case. Others have been dismissed or filed under lower offenses.

    “Most of the cases that were filed against the former president were dismissed, beginning with the Iloilo airport case and several other cases.

    There are only two cases so far, the electoral sabotage case—which is non-bailable—and the PCSO plunder case, which is also non-bailable,” he said.

    Arroyo was freed on a P1-million bail for the electoral sabotage charge after the court found it wanting of a strong evidence of guilt—only to be detained again months later for a plunder charge over the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.

    The lawyers contend that the OMB already issued a resolution that found lack of probable cause in the PCSO case to indict President Arroyo for the crime of plunder. But Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales set it aside in order to continue the case.

    Arroyo’s plight has become a case of moral muddling and abuse.

    It’s puzzling why the women in this country—particularly those who are part of the intelligentsia and those who pride themselves on upholding women’s right to an equal seat at the table—do not take up her case to champion.

    It’s the men—congressmen to be exact—who took up the cudgels for her in filing a House resolution and in petitioning the Sandiganbayan for compassion for her and her family during this holiday season.

    To the lasting credit of former President Joseph Estrada, he decided on his own without little prodding to visit President Arroyo at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMCC). And he made the visit not only a PR coup, but a telling blow for presidential dignity and compassion.

    Preceding him by a month was former President Fidel V. Ramos.

    In his conversation with GMA, FVR is said to have told her: “Why are they [Aquino administration] keeping you here with your situation? They should let you go [on bail].” Ramos posed for a picture with her inside her detention room, flashing his famous thumbs-up sign.

    Hobbled by ill health, GMA seems like a wraith of the feisty leader who made “a strong republic her calling card.”

    It seems such a waste to see her wasting away at the VMCC, because she is clearly one of the most able, and best educated presidents we have ever had, and she can still share with us her insight and experience.

    The last time we publicly heard from GMA was when she penned the stinging critique of Aquino: “It’s the economy, student.” Everyone had fun recalling that GMA was at one time Aquino’s economics professor at the Ateneo.

    Since that piece, she has kept in dignified silence away from the spotlight—fighting her court battles as Prisoner Anonymous.

    The case against GMA is shaky. It depends almost wholly now on the testimony of witnesses who cannot be trusted, and co-accused persons willing to turn witness against her. It has depended on newspaper stories and columns. It has from the first been propped up by the noise of the Yellow mob, which has gone quiet of late.

    All that is not enough to hold in prolonged detention a former president.

    The Aquino government will have a mini-crisis in its hands when the international community and the international media take an active interest in Arroyo’s plight. Imagine some ambassadors, such as the US and European ambassadors, trooping to the VMCC to visit her. Imagine a heavyweight like Bill Clinton coming to Manila to visit his classmate.

    And above all, imagine Anderson Cooper coming back to this country to do a report on the case of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo—and declaring on live TV, “there is no justice in the Philippines.”

    That could cause President BS to lose a lot of face.

    Ironically, the administration and the nation need not have this predicament at all. We only have to abide by elementary principles of justice and decency.

    Faced with a situation that was unsustainable and an incarcerated president who was becoming more popular in detention, President Arroyo decided to pardon President Estrada. By making that choice, she corrected a constitutional infirmity that the international community never accepted. And she spared herself further aggravation as Estrada’s jailor.

    Now, it is the turn of President Arroyo to expect the humane treatment from her successor.

    President Aquino will have similar options before him this coming year.

    He can heed the call of decency and compassion. Or he can insist on keeping his trophy prisoner.

    But soon or late, Aquino must face a public and a nation who are weary of and dismayed by President Arroyo’s ordeal. They do not buy the rationale that Aquino is waging this vengeful campaign against Arroyo in their name.

    If GMA is being detained inhumanely on our behalf, then we all have the right to demand answers from President Aquino regarding the grounds for his actions and whether he means to keep her in detention for the remainder of her mortal life.

    If Arroyo continues as a trophy prisoner, she could become a millstone around Aquino’s neck.



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    1. It’s articles like these from people of your vintage that makes me happy that your generation is slowly dying out.

      I comfort myself in the thought that even Hitler has his defenders, and find strength in knowing that for every Arroyo-loving idiot out there are ten Filipinos with more that half a brain to know that Arroyo deserves her current predicament.

    2. How can you expect compassion from someone who did not show compassion for the hostages during the Quirino Grandstand hostage crisis failure. Instead of giving the hostage taker what he wants which i believe the government can give so that in the process not one will die in that bus containing Hong Kong tourists, he allowed his stubborness to rule his decisions. So there again after 3 years, he showed his lack of compassion when he refused to even say the word “sorry” to the Hong Kong relatives affectes by the hostage crisis fail. If he is like this in this aspect, we can expect him likewise on his approach to a former head of State and an ailing woman, Gloria Arroyo, or to those affected by Yolanda, where he was criticised to be having lack of empathy when he is being interviewed during the first week of the typhoon tragedy. We put him there in the pedestal to manipulate the course, I believe that another 2 years of him in office is another wasted years for the Philippines,

    3. Franklin gujol on

      The cases against GMA did not start from this administration. They started even during GMAs time. Her political backers just ignored everything and blocked any investigation. Do you remember the ” I’m sorry” or the paper bags full of money distributed in Malacanang? Filipinos’ sense of compassion is known and always been abused by politicians. This trait should only be used for the poor who are victims of injustice and not for the rich and powerful who are charged with stealing money from the government or stealing the presidency. Gloria pardoned Erap in the hope that she will get the same treatment- which I think what you are asking now. How will corruption stop in the Philippines if we always pardon the corrupt? I envy other countries who were able to jail their corrupt leaders-Korea etc.

    4. May I volunteer a conjecture? I think that we may factor into Mr. Aquino’s vindictiveness towards his former economics professor President Gloria Arroyo the fact that so-called “Cory magic” miserably failed to draw crowd support when his mother called on Mrs. Arroyo to resign on the heels of the Hello Garci controversy. Cory’s cry then turned out to be a voice in the wilderness. So, it could be that to avenge that failure or get even with President Arroyo, the dutiful son has taken up the cudgels on his mom’s behalf. Right?

    5. What else is new? Let’s just call this ‘suspended animation’ or making pickles the hard way. If the Ampatuans are all still sitting in court for 4 years, so will GMA until she wilts. It’s a punishment & she must suffer. To say that Pnoy is heartless is partly true.

    6. anona squamosa on

      It is time to grant bail to Arroyo…It is time to free his “trophy prisoner” , not only to gain “pogi” points but to show that he has compassion, and not a “cruel”and “mean” “no mercy” landlord or haciendero. …

    7. Filipinos should stop and think for a minute….how do you return 3 years stolen from your life…much less, for a 65 year-old woman, sick even, and who happens to be a former president…

      After 3 years, why haven’t the trials started, or bail given…all her other co-charged have been freed on bail…

      Yeah, just a trophy prisoner…and that’s very vain, indeed…!

      Pabagsak na talaga si Pnoy, obvious na talaga meron ngang sira to sa ulo….!

    8. Dapat ilabas sa newspaper yong update na mga kaso ni GMA na inilabas sa ABS CBN Website. Para malaman ng mas maraming tao. Konti lang ang meron internet. Ilathala sa mga tabloid din at broadsheet. Dapat mapick up ng international trimedia nga.

    9. Pnoy has nothing to forgive; those accusations against her were baseless and should not stand in court. Brillantes was out of his mind to jail GMA just because of political battlecry “12-0” with a dubious criminal witness. And why Concheta Carpio sustains a case against GMA just because of side-comment-approval of GMA on PCSO’s request for intelligence fund. In order to cut-short for the process, Ombudsman Carpio just demand from AMLAC a report if GMA embezzled money from PCSO which the supposed depository bank should have reported to AMLAC. This process should be done to all politicians who were accused of plunder.

    10. sabihin man nating tama at makatwiran ang ginawang pagdikta ni P’noy
      sa pagkakahabla kay gng arroyo sa mahinang kaso ng plunder o pagkagamit
      ng pondo ng pcso para ipambayad sa isang pilipinong nahatulan ng pugot ulo sa
      saudi para mailigtas sa tiyak na kamatayan. at sabihin na nating labag sa batas
      ang ginawa ni gng arroyo, tama lang na dapat panagutan niya sa bilanguan.
      Pero mas dapat na panagutin ni ombudsman morales at cj sereno, na dapat pangunahan nila ang pag sampa ng kaso laban kay P’noy, abad et.al sa tahasang
      paglabag at paglapastanggan sa konstitution, para maging parehas at
      at pantay pantay. Napaka linaw ng ebidensiya sa paggamit nila ng PDAF, DAP,
      at pagpapakita nila ng pagsulong sa paggamit nito, sa panunuhol sa mga mambabatas na congresman at senador para ipa-impeach at tahasang
      sumangayon sa pagsasabing may pagkakasala si corona. Sa mga panahong
      ito walang mag sisimula ng pagsasampa ng impeachment laban kay P’noy
      sa dahilang mahigit kalahatin ng kongresista ay naging kasapakat niya
      sa pamumuno ng trio nasi belmonte, burger gonzales, tupas. kitang
      kita na si p’noy ang pasimuno ng pdaf, dap at si abad ang galamay.

      ms r. hontiveros kung tutoo ka, pasimulan mo ang malasakit mo sa bayan mag
      file ng kaso sa ombudsman laban sa mga tiwaling si p’noy at abad kung kapa-
      kanan ng bayan ang pinaglalaban nyo, huwag kang manahimik.

    11. Let us not forget that even Cory turned against GMA from being her staunch supporter and what about her “I am sorry for EDSA II patawarin mo ako lahat naman tayo nagkakamali!” she pleaded to Erap. What could have prompted Cory to do these things even her yellow amigas were aghast streamers sprung out decrying her apology “We are not sorry for EDSA II” they said. I can think of two reasons: the Cojuancos were losing finally Hacienda Luisita and GMA was being blamed for her insistence on enforcing the laws on land reform and see what happened to Corona for confirming that the value of the hacienda was much lesser than what the Cojuancos wanted to be paid them for it; and, despite her posturings to the contrary that she is no longer interested in politics she was really an astute and shameless politician in cozying up to Erap who was still popular among the masa to get his support for her son who was already eyeing the presidency, there just could’nt be any other reason for it I think. Now pnoy heaps his wrath on GMA and his factotums in his administration deLima, Brillantes, Carpio Morales, Lacierda and others do his biddings to make GMA a trophy prisoner as this columnist calls it. I echo the earlier comment that reminds pnoy about the Biblical caution on karmatic consequences of what one sows.

    12. Maraming kapalpakan si Noynoy na nagpapatunay na talagang walang kakayahan na maging presidente. Kaya kailangan niya si GMA na maging trophy prisoner as scapegoat for his incompetence. Pagbabayaran niya ito pag may nangyari kay GMA habang ito ay nakakulong.

    13. We may not be a rich nation, but we take pride in our sense of compassion. The continued incarceration of former Pres. Arroyo is a blow against our collective sense of compassion. Its unfortunate that as supposedly Asia’s lone Christian nation we have this spectacle. Worse, its making all of us look cruel. I have loved Pres. Cory Aquino and wept unabashedly when I saw the long line of mourners paying their last respects to her. Im sure, she would not have approved of her continued incarceration.

    14. P-noy has another two years, that is if he survives it, to plan for his safe exit. I do not believe that those people he has gravely wronged will not seek retributions for the offenses this ignoramus of a president has delightfully inflicted against his them. The continued persecution of Arroyo is unjustified. Keeping a citizen, especially a former head of state in continuous detention without the benefit of a proper trial is serious injustice and violation of human rights. I hope this stupid, immature entity who was just shoved into the presidency by hitchiking on his parents’ popularity faces trial and conviction for his sins.

    15. A. Agrava (Mr. Editor please withhold my name) on

      Peope I know who work in Malacanang said at Christmas season beer night we had that they and some members of President Aquino’s Cabinet are uncomfortable about the continued detention of former President Arroyo. Some of these people realize that Aquino’s popularity is gradually waning partly because of his unChristian treatment of Gloria Arroyo. Why doesn’t he be less cruel to the ex-president then? It seems that no one can tell Aquino any advice, This is not just because he really is a stubborn fellow who sticks to his personal likes and dislikes no matter what. It is also because the close friends and relatives who fueled Aquino’s wrongheaded whim to be mean to his former professor don’t want to be proved wrong.

    16. My reminder to BS Aquino, “you will reap what you sowed.” this is biblical, if you will. and your Father in Heaven, if you are aware of this, will not forgive those who does not know how to forgive his brother or anyone for that matter (from the Lord’s or Apostles’ Prayer.

      • But what is there to forgive Arroyo for ? What wrong did Arroyo did to Aquino and his family ? The Hacienda Luisita case ?… Should that be the case I think it should be Arroyo and the Filipino people who should be saying to Aquino and his clan/family ” We forgive you, Noynoy Aquino, but only after you gave back Hacienda Luisita to the tenant farmers, and after you released former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from detention pronto…!

    17. You fail to explicitly say that only extra-judicial, thus illegal, means have been employed to keep PGMA in custody. Abnoy, de Lima, Ombudsman and corrupt yellow judges must be incarcerated 3x the lenght of PGMAs suffering.