current events, Elections

Freaky Friday for Philippine Legal System

Yesterday, the Filipino people witnessed a freak show featuring the country’s legal / justice system with lead characters played by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima (DOJ), Commission on Elections (COMELEC)  Chair Sixto Brillantes, and the Supreme Court justices.

ex-Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former head of the "Strong Republic"


Ms. Arroyo is charged with electoral sabotage during the 2007 elections. But Arroyo was not even a candidate then. She was just rooting for her senatorial team. And so far, all the witnesses (Ampatuan aide Norie Unas and provincial election supervisor Lintang Bedol) who came out said that their boss (whoever they may be) told him/her to rig the votes because the boss was so instructed by the President. Isn’t that mere hearsay?

On the other hand, in the 2004 presidential elections, there was the “Hello, Garci” tapes. And really, nobody in his right mind could believe that  Arroyo, even at the height of her popularity, could ever win against THE Filipino movie idol, Fernando Poe, Jr., who was a bigger star than his best friend former President Joseph Estrada.


Ms. Arroyo, despite all the scandals and scams investigated by the Senate like the ZTE-NBN scandal and “Joc-Joc feritlizer scam”, was not indicted for plunder.


Why is the Aquino government so afraid that Ms. Arroyo and family would not return to the Philippines if they were allowed to leave? Ms. Aquino is a former president and sitting congresswoman. Wouldn’t she be so conspicuous abroad? Does the Aquino government think that Ms. Aquino would do a “Lacson”? Senator Lacson fled to Hong Kong and stayed there incognito for so long, until Ms. Aquino left office.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan also fled from (in)justice and hid from authorities for quite some time before he was finally captured. Afterward, he was given back his freedom, apparently after a quid pro quo deal with Ms. Aquino.

So what kind of justice system does this country have if sitting senators and congressmen and former presidents and presidential candidates would rather hide or flee instead of facing the law?

Below is my report for

ex-Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
arrested for electoral sabotage

It has been a very busy Friday for Philippine government officials. In the morning, while the Supreme Court en banc was deliberating the government’s motion for reconsideration (MR) regarding the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) that the Supreme Court issued on Tuesday, November 15, the joint investigation panel of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) and Department of Justice (DOJ) voted to file charges against former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for electoral sabotage, a non-bailable offense.

In the afternoon, the Supreme Court dismissed the government’s motion and re-affirmed the TRO allowing the former President to leave the country for medical care. The Court also asked the Justice Secretary, lawyer Laila de Lima to explain why she should not be held in contempt of court for not heeding the TRO.

Last Tuesday, Ms. Arroyo attempted to leave the country on the strength of the TRO but the Justice Secretary, in an apparent defiance of the Supreme Court oder, refused to lift the watchlist order on the former president, which barred her from foreign travel.

After the Court’s decision, swarms of policemen arrived at the airport and the hospital where Ms. Arroyo is staying.

A few hours after, just before the end of office hours, the Regional Trial Court Branch 112 of Pasay City issued an arrest warrant for Ms. Arroyo and two co-accused, former Maguindanao provincial governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr and former Maguindanao provincial election supervisor Lintang Bedol. Ampatuan is under detention for the Ampatuan / Maguindanao massacre case. Bedol is also under government detention. He was being considered for the government’s Witness Protection Program so he could testify against Ms. Arroyo and allies.

By early evening, busloads of policemen came to reinforce police presence in the hospital. The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) served the arrest warrant on Ms. Arroyo.

The Arroyo camp questioned the arrest order saying that a regional trial court has no jurisdiction over the case since the crimes attributed to Ms. Arroyo happened when she was President. For high government officials, the proper venue would be theSandiganbayan, the court which has jurisdiction over graft and corruption cases of government officials.

The former President had undergone surgery on her cervical spine. She wants to seek better medical treatment abroad.

jamalashley is based in Manila, National Capital Region, Philippines, and is a Stringer for Allvoices.

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