AT the risk of being accused of “beating a dead horse,” we feel it is important to again remind the Aquino Administration of the gravity of the recent findings of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which declared the continued detention of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo “arbitrary and illegal under international law.”
This time, however, the reminder is encouraged by a positive development, the appointment of Commission on Audit (COA) chief Heidi Mendoza as the UN Undersecretary-General of Internal Oversight Services. This is in recognition of Secretary Mendoza’s qualifications and effective performance at the national level, and we congratulate her on her promotion to the world body. It is an appointment that should be considered a legitimate point of pride for the Philippines.
We would expect that President BS Aquino 3rd and his administration would naturally take pride in Mendoza’s appointment as well, which is all the more reason for them to respect the conclusions of the UN working group in the case of former president Arroyo, and act quickly to correct the mistreatment they have inflicted on her.
To reiterate, the steps recommended by the UN working group include affording her the opportunity to post bail – which will allow her to seek treatment for a serious medical condition – granting her just compensation for the time she has been illegally detained, and pursuing the charges against her, if that is the real intention of the current government, in a fair, efficient, and transparent manner consistent with national and international law and respect for human rights.
For the four-plus years the former president has been detained, President Aquino and those who do his bidding have displayed no interest whatsoever in “seeking justice” for the crimes they accuse Mrs. Arroyo of committing, but rather contemptuous, petty vindictiveness, and so we are not actually very hopeful that our erring leaders will see the light now.
But they still do have the opportunity to do so, and at least partially amend their errors. With the appointment of Secretary Mendoza to the UN’s auditory oversight agency, it is an opportunity they must seize immediately. For how can one official of a government be internationally recognized for her professionalism and propriety, while the leaders of that very same government behave with callous impunity, and mocking disrespect of carefully deliberated international findings?
The leader who can tolerate that incredible contradiction is indeed a leader who is incapable of shame, compassion, or civilized decency. And if President Aquino believes that his position as the leader of a nation of 100 million insulates him from personal approbation, he should be reminded that the United Nations can and regularly does sanction individuals for their egregious behavior.
There was a time not too long ago when Aquino harbored illusions of being recognized among the pantheon of the world’s peacemakers. With the UN findings on the Arroyo case, however, it is now increasingly likely he will find his legacy likened to those of the world’s villains –Uganda’s Idi Amin or Haiti’s Duvalier father and son.