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Of compassion and justice


One would think someone who is no longer in power would be less arrogant. But such is not the case with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Instead of continuing to plead for compassion so that the government would finally allow her to travel abroad supposedly for medical treatment of a rare bone disease, her spokesperson is now threatening to bring the matter to court.

Even Sen. Ping Lacson, who blames his one-year stint last year as a fugitive to alleged political harassment by Arroyo, was willing to allow his tormentor to leave, if she would first submit her counter-affidavits refuting charges of plunder and poll fraud. But no, Arroyo would rather spend precious time trading barbs with her critics over her request to travel abroad than respond to the allegations.

If she’s not guilty, why is it so difficult to gather her lawyers and answer the charges point-by-point? When she has submitted her counter-affidavit, then perhaps it would be easier for Justice Secretary Lilia de Lima to recommend to President Aquino that she be allowed to seek medical treatment abroad.

The problem is every time charges are brought against her or her husband Mike Arroyo, they both fall ill from some ailment that almost always needs medical attention from doctors abroad. How many times has this happened? Is this latest rare or critical medical problem a case of the “boy who cried wolf?” Or is this another of those shallow excuses the couple had come up each time they were in trouble in the past?
It’s hard to believe that despite the accolades brought upon Filipino doctors from all over the world, there is not a single doctor who can perform the bone biopsy to find out if she is suffering from a “rare metabolic bone disease,” as her most avid ally, Rep. Danilo Suarez, claims she needs.

It would seem medical practitioners in the Philippines have been left behind, if the former Philippine leader were to be believed. This is certainly a bad pitch for the government’s medical tourism, coming from a leader in whose term the program was conceived.

Even if we were to believe the Arroyo camp’s claim that no doctor has the experience and knowledge to conduct the bone biopsy that she is claiming she needs, what’s stopping her from bringing the doctor that she wanted to the Philippines, as suggested by San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito? Being multi-millionaires in their own right, it shouldn’t be difficult for the Arroyos to ask the doctor to come and conduct the bone biopsy in the Philippines.

Contradicting the Arroyo spokesperson’s claim, a ranking official of the Philippine Medical Association said Arroyo has the option of a non-invasive medical diagnostic procedure called radioisotope scan, instead of a bone biopsy for her hypoparathyroidism illness. Dr. Leo Olarte, PMA Board of Governors for Manila, said the country has many radioisotope scan that can take the place of a bone biopsy.

Her own doctors have repeatedly said that Arroyo was recovering very well, and Health Secretary Enrique Ona, who visited Arroyo in her home in La Vista, said while she looked pale and haggard, she didn’t appear to be in a life-threatening condition.

If Arroyo’s medical condition were indeed critical, one that could be considered a life-threatening situation, why is that in two separate letters requesting permission to travel abroad for critical medical treatment she said she would make two side trips to attend a Clinton Global Initiative meeting in New York and the International Commission Against the Death Penalty in Switzerland? These are in two different sides of the globe, wouldn’t the long travels worsen her condition?

Arroyo also included Germany, Singapore, Spain and Italy in her two-month proposed itinerary. Of the seven countries she planned to visit, only the US and Switzerland have extradition treaties with the Philippines. The DFA said last year the Philippines has extradition treaties with only 10 of the 192 member countries of the United Nations, namely Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Korea, Micronesia, Switzerland, Thailand, and the United States.

Arroyo, of course, vowed to return after a maximum of 60 days. But how can you believe someone who promised on the day she was honoring our great hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal on December 30, 2003 that she would not run in the 2004 presidential elections and that she would focus on putting back the Philippines on the path to economic recovery, and without explaining why the sudden turnaround, she did run and even pulled off the biggest election fraud in history?

How can you trust the word of someone who has, for political expediency, consistently lied to the Filipino people and who tried so many times to subvert the people’s will? How can you trust someone who has been named in so many corruption and cheating scandals? Why even give compassion to someone who has not shown a sincere understanding of the word?

The Department of Justice should press the arraignment of Arroyo in the poll fraud case, which has already been filed by the Department of Justice, and demand the submission of their counter-affidavit on the charges before even considering allowing Arroyo to leave the country.
Once she has been arraigned, even the Supreme Court, which has been tagged as an “Arroyo Court,” cannot ignore the fact that plunder and poll fraud are non-bailable offenses. Even if the Supreme Court lives up to its billing and still allows Arroyo to leave, the Sandiganbayan can proceed with the trial in absentia.

Once convicted, the Arroyos will live as fugitives for the rest of their lives, always worrying that the country that granted them refuge would someday become less hospitable and turn them over to Philippine authorities. I’m certain that’s not the kind of retirement they would want.

As Aquino had said about reconciliation, there can be no compassion without justice.

By Val G. Abelgas

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