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The wheels of justice must move on


The most sensible thing I heard from the Philippines in the past week were the words coming from Senators Franklin Drilon and Allan Peter Cayetano, who said there would be no let-up in the investigation by the Senate blue ribbon committee of the corruption allegations against the ailing Arroyos.

Drilon and Cayetano were, of course, referring to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who is confined at the St. Luke’s Medical Center awaiting a third surgery on her spine; her husband Mike Arroyo, who just came back from what he said was a check-up in Hongkong for a heart condition; and her brother-in-law Ignacio “Iggy” Arroyo, who is in London also allegedly for treatment of a heart problem.

The two senators were probably aware that each time the three Arroyos were implicated in major corruption scandals in the past, they either had to be hospitalized or had to go abroad for an important health check-up. But, more importantly, Drilon and Cayetano knew that for the country to really move forward, the heavy baggage of corruption scandals left behind by the Arroyos would have to be resolved and disposed of immediately.

Drilon, who chairs the blue ribbon committee, said the Senate might just go ahead with gathering evidence and filing charges against Mike Arroyo if he persisted in avoiding a Senate investigation on allegations he sold two used helicopters he owned as brand new to the military.

Cayetano, who is Senate majority leader, on the other hand, said authorities should leave no stone unturned in the investigations into allegations of corruption during the nine-year Arroyo administration. He called the “Hello, Garci” scandal the “mother of all scams” that the Aquino administration should not allow to go unpunished.

Drilon and Cayetano were reacting to appeals by Arroyo allies and, surprisingly, the otherwise feisty retired Archbishop Oscar Cruz to suspend the investigations while the three are healing.

“Let her rest for the meantime, recover from her illness and once she’s okay again, then continue the investigations,” Cruz said.

This was similar to the appeal made by Arroyo and her supporters in 2005 when her administration was on the verge of collapse in the midst of protests in the wake of the “Hello Garci” scandal. She and her lackeys appealed for reconciliation to enable the country to move on.

Her supporters here in the United States asked me at that time to stop my criticisms of Arroyo and to give reconciliation a chance so that the country could move on, which I politely refused.

In time, the “Hello Garci” scandal died down and guess what? The country moved on and went on with “business as usual,” and instead of moving forward, the country’s recovery train sputtered even more in the next five years under the Arroyo administration, slowed down further by another poll cheating mess in 2007 and numerous other corruption scandals involving hundreds of billions of pesos that should have propelled the country back on track if they were not used to line up the pockets of the Arroyos and their minions.

And now they want us to go easy on the Arroyos again?

For nine dark years, a period that Filipino businessmen once called “the lost decade,” the Arroyos got away with all sorts of shenanigans because of the Filipinos’ forgiving nature. As a people, we tend to forgive and forget easily, choosing to let go and move on each time we are used and abused.
The biggest examples are the Marcoses. Just a few years after more than a million people gathered on EDSA to force President Ferdinand Marcos and his family to flee to Hawaii in 1986, they were all back in the country, their fortune nearly intact, their egos un-bruised, and their crimes unpunished. Three of the Marcoses have alternately become senator, congressman and governor. The former First Lady Imelda Marcos is a congresswoman representing Marcos’ old district, son Bongbong is senator, and daughter Imee is Ilocos Norte governor.

Former President Joseph Estrada, although placed under house arrest and later “detained” in his own vacation house in Tanay after a plunder conviction, was never really punished for his crime, and, in fact, was nearly given another mandate by the people to lead the country again when he finished a decent second during last year’s presidential elections.

And now they want us, for humanitarian reasons, to go easy on the Arroyos, whose nine-year term was described by former Sen. Ernesto Maceda as a “plunderous regime”?

Was there anything humane about diverting P728 million in funds meant to purchase fertilizers for the farmers to one’s election campaign? Or the P218.7-million budget of the Department of Agriculture for hybrid rice, certified seeds, farm inputs and fertilizers for farmers in four regions in 2007? Or the numerous other anomalies under the Ginintuang Maganing Ani (GMA) program that also produced the P2-billion swine scam, and the P3.1-billion irrigation scam, billions of pesos that should have gone to buy agricultural inputs for the poor farmers and fishermen and perhaps reduce poverty in the Philippines?

How about the hundreds of millions of pesos that the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and the Philippine Amusement Gaming Corp., two agencies that were put up to fund health and other programs for the poor, that were alleged to have been diverted and misappropriated by them? Should we let go of that, too, and move on?

In the months after Arroyo left Malacanang, many more claims of corruption have come out, discovered by the new officials who took over the affected agencies and revealed by conspirators or witnesses who came out in the open only now that they have been assured protection by the Aquino government.

The agencies that have the mandate to investigate all the anomalies that occurred during that “lost decade” and “plunderous regime” should pursue the investigations without let-up and the perpetrators charged in court and punished. The Senate blue ribbon committee, the House good government committee, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice should speed up their investigation, instead of letting up on their probes.

The people easily forget, and once the cha-cha train starts moving again, or Manny Pacquiao wins by another knockout, or Paris Hilton comes back to Manila, or Kris Aquino finds another boyfriend, or President Aquino gets to date another girl, all these investigations would soon be forgotten and relegated to the dustbin again.

President Aquino, whose success hinges on his ability to make good on his promise to curb corruption and punish those who robbed the people during the previous administration, should pursue his drive to bring the plunderers to justice, before they leave the country, all in the guise of health problems.

Only when the wheels of justice move on can the country move on.

By Val G. Abelgas

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