What should we show society and most especially the next generation? For me, what is important is, if you committed a crime, you must pay for it.
– President Benigno Aquino 3rd commenting on bail for his predecessor
What can moral figures and legal luminaries of the country say about President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s comments on the bail petition of former president Gloria Arroyo and the resolution of a House of Representatives bloc, including administration legislators, for the Sandiganbayan court to grant the Pampanga congresswoman house arrest?
Do any of our Cardinals — Cebu Archbishop Emeritus Ricardo Vidal, past and present Manila Archbishops Gaudencio Rosales and Luis Antonio Tagle, and Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo — find anything objectionable in Aquino’s views, especially on moral and Christian grounds?
What about former Chief Justices Hilario Davide, Artemio Panganiban and Reynato Puno? Do they think it upholds justice and judicial independence for the Chief Executive to openly oppose petitions before the courts? Not to mention saying in so many words that an accused who is presumed innocent, has committed a crime and should pay for it.
Two leading professional bodies would also be good to hear from. The Integrated Bar of the Philippines stands up for the rule of law and human rights. Do Aquino’s comments advance those IBP tenets? Then there is the Philippine Medical Association, the premier group of physicians. Is the PMA fine with Aquino’s misrepresentation of findings by both government and personal doctors that Arroyo’s delicate health would benefit from staying home with her family?
These august personages and institutions probably missed Aquino’s latest Arroyo-bashing, or just dismissed it as a presidential quirk no amount of criticism can stop.
But what about public morals, human life, law and justice? Should paragons of religion, law and medicine stay mum about President Aquino’s open opposition to Arroyo’s bail or house arrest, thus pressuring judges to deny what can greatly improve her health, alleviate her suffering, and even save her life? Plus truly serve justice.
Consider this: The plunder conspiracy charge detaining Arroyo sans bail over allegedly misspent sweepstakes funds is weak, leading the Sandiganbayan to lift detention for all her co-accused. And even for the guilty, it violates both Christian morals and Philippine law if the state endangers his or her life, since we have no death penalty.
And imperil Arroyo is what continued detention does by denying her corrective surgery abroad, which is where she would rightly want it done after three unsatisfactory operations by topnotch specialists here in our country.
Speak up for truth, mercy, justice and rights
If our moral and legal lights fail to shine on this issue, then, to paraphrase Aquino’s remarks quoted above, what are we showing society and the next generation by just quietly accepting his affronts to Christian mercy, as well as to justice and truth?
For starters, he wrongly portrayed house arrest as indicating Arroyo does not need hospital care. In fact, her physicians and those of the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) hosting her agree that home stay with family and constituency would improve her health.
Given Arroyo’s life-threatening condition of a misaligned titanium implant in her neck possibly causing suffocation, it was both untruthful and unkind for Aquino to dissemble and ask, “If she has no medical issue, then why keep her in a hospital?”
Surely, religious leaders, at the very least, should admonish that it is false and uncharitable to misrepresent the true state of a detained, ailing 68-year-old woman who could die if food lodges in her throat due to the wayward implant protruding into it. That is the compassionate, truthful and Christian thing to do.
And the national association of physicians, if true to their oath to care for the sick, must correct the misimpression foisted by Aquino, concealing the consensus of attending doctors that home stay would greatly help Arroyo. The PMA must set this medical record straight.
Interfering with impunity
As for our esteemed Chief Justices and the legal community’s IBP, will they leave unremarked the insinuations by the President, whose appointing authority can sway judges, that the accused Arroyo is guilty?
Such silence has sadly abetted Aquino meddling and challenges to judicial processes and rulings since even before he became president. As candidate, he disputed the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision that the Constitution’s provision for a 90-day period to fill court vacancies, overrides its election ban on appointments.
In his first months in office, Aquino interfered with the six-year-old Oakwood Mutiny trial, ordering Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to withdraw evidence. When his first Executive Order creating the Philippine Truth Commission was ruled unconstitutional for targeting the past administration, Aquino launched his repeated attacks on judicial rulings.
That animosity escalated with his November 2011 rebuke of then Chief Justice Renato Corona, after High Court decisions lifting Secretary de Lima’s travel ban on the Arroyos and ordering the Hacienda Luisita of Aquino’s Cojuangco clan redistributed.
Then came the Malacañang-orchestrated Corona impeachment, with Aquino campaigning for Senate conviction and releasing billions of pesos in pork barrel for lawmakers supporting ouster. Plus the P157-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program, whose banning by the Supreme Court got Aquino publicly disputing the unanimous DAP decision.
So legal luminaries understandably are resigned to endless Aquino meddling in court cases, defending allies (he bailed out two administration stalwarts in Sandiganbayan cases) and all but declaring opponents guilty.
No matter the weak plunder charge against Arroyo, rushed in 2012 after she won bail in a flimsy election sabotage case. The first panel of Ombudsman lawyers found no plunder, and the Sandiganbayan court exonerated or granted bail to co-defendants in the alleged conspiracy.
That should have led to bail for Arroyo, at least. But Aquino blocked it, even promising a High Court post, according to a veteran lawyer in the know.
With religious and justice personages and institutions largely silent over Arroyo’s treatment, it seems no one cares to stop the very powerful and vindictive bullying their way against truth, justice, morals and mercy. That’s the unjust and unchristian message for Filipinos.