THE Sandiganbayan’s decision to order the suspension of Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for 90 days has once more given an opportunity to politically obsessed and hate-consumed Filipinos to commit cruelty.
Mrs. Arroyo is under hospital arrest in the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City for plunder. The Sandiganbayan ordered her suspension because she is facing graft charges in connection with the scandalous proposed $329-million National Broadband Network-ZTE deal with China. The former president, however, stopped the project when allegations surfaced that Philippine officials were exacting huge kickbacks from the state-owned China telecoms corporation.
The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division’s decision to order the former president’s suspension was not—we think–part of the Aquino administration’s orchestrated campaign to physically and morally hurt the person of Mrs. Arroyo.
We don’t agree with the former president’s husband, Atty. Mike Arroyo, who, according to an ABS-CBN News report by R. G. Cruz, speculated about the timing of the Sandiganbayan’s move to order Rep. Arroyo’s suspension. “It seems they had to do that to cover up the DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program) loss [or did he say “news”]today, and to lay the premise for the suspension of the senators.”
The motion of the Ombudsman to have Mrs. Arroyo suspended was filed two years ago. And it seems to be about time now for the justices to decide on that motion. Besides, we would rather hope that the justices of the Sandiganbayan are trying to retain their self-respect and image as persons of probity. They would not allow themselves to become stooges of President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd. They would, therefore, also not make rulings in collaboration with Malacañang schemes–such as to lay the premise for the suspension of the indicted senators who are all non-Liberal Party and non-Aquino allies.
Deplorable reactions of pro-Aquino people
We deplore, however, the reactions of pro-Aquino propagandists and PNoy fans. The news of the Sandiganbayan’s order against Congresswoman Arroyo gave them another opportunity to commit more exercises of cruelty in the social media. Many commenters heaped curses on the seriously ill former president. The most barbaric said “Dapat patayin na iyan.” But there were some who, commendably, reminded the others that Mrs. Arroyo, being a woman, and sick, deserved sympathy and better treatment.
Others pointed out that she should only be punished when found guilty and must be presumed innocent till then.
Unlike other allies of President Aquino and the Liberal Party leaders, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte has behaved and spoken most correctly about the Sandiganbayan’s suspension order.
He said, as quoted by the ABS-CBN report, the anti-graft court’s order had no practical effect. “She is unable to attend sessions anyway… In practical ways, [the suspension is]already implemented because she cannot attend anyway.”
Our story in yesterday’s issue “Only Congress can suspend Arroyo—solon” (by reporters Llanesca T. Panti and Catherine S. Valente), said that Congressman Romero Quimbo of Marikina City, chairman of the House committee on ways and means, questioned the preventive suspension order of the Sandiganbayan.
She was ordered to “cease and desist from performing and/or exercising the functions and duties, as well as receiving and/or enjoying the salaries, benefits, privileges of her present public position or any other public office or position she may now or hereafter be holding . . . for a period of 90 days.”
A lawyer, Quimbo said, “We cannot enforce [the suspension]automatically because that would mean depriving her constituents of representation, especially during the budget hearings. The House is the sole judge in removing its members and it is a power we hold dearly not because we want to protect each other, but because we need to ensure that the people’s right to be represented won’t be stifled.”