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Time of reckoning has come


In physics, there is a law called “Newton’s third law” or the “law of conservation of momentum” which basically states that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” For example, if you jump from a boat, the force of your jump pushes the boat backwards, or as the bullet is fired from a gun, the force of its release pushes the gun backwards.

In everyday life, we sometimes call it “karma, ” If one sows goodness, one will reap goodness; if one sows evil, one will reap evil. In Hinduism, karma refers to the “totality of our actions and their concomitant reactions in this and previous lives, all of which determines our future.” Thus, if you do something bad to some people, something bad will also befall you later.

For nine years, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo survived all sorts of crises, many of them of her own making. In 2003, after scolding a group of young and dedicated soldiers who went to see her in Malacanang to expose corruption in the government and in the military, the soldiers, led by Lt. Antonio Trillanes IV, staged a mutiny that was subsequently quelled.

In 2004, she lied to the people about not running in the May 2004 presidential elections. She ran anyway and survived the backlash. She won a six-year term in what was perceived to be the dirtiest and most tainted election in the country’s history.

In 2005, an impeachment case was filed against her following the “Hello Garci” scandal in which she was caught in tape talking to then Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano seeking assurances from the poll official of a one million vote margin over the late Fernando Poe Jr. in the 2004 elections. Massive street protests nearly toppled her from power. Arroyo survived both the street protests and the impeachment.

In 2006, disillusioned soldiers staged another uprising. Again she survived. More impeachment cases were filed against her up to the last days of her nine-year reign, but she survived them all. She, her husband and her son Mikey were tagged in numerous corruption scandals, but she escaped unscathed except for the natural drop in ratings.

Using all resources at her disposal, including the liberal disbursements of the people’s money, she finished her term in full. She even managed to win a seat in the House of Representatives, representing her province of Pampanga after her presintial term was over.

Because she survived them all, Arroyo probably thought nothing could go wrong. But Newton’s Law, or “karma” if you will, is finally catching up on her. For every action, there is a corresponding equal and opposite reaction. The time of reckoning has come.

Last Friday, after an unsuccessful attempt to leave the country following a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court, also known as the Arroyo Court, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was finally arrested at the St. Luke’s Medical Center where she had been staying since immigration authorities stopped her from boarding a flight to Hongkong a few days earlier.

It was obvious Arroyo and her husband Mike were expecting a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court because they had booked five different flights to either Hongkong or Singapore in preparation for an abrupt departure as soon as they get the TRO from the high court. The TROs had not even been properly served when the Arroyos rushed to the airport, only to be stopped by immigration officials. Why the rush?

It was a pitiful sight: the once feared leader, sitting on a wheelchair with head support and all, looking dazed while being told by lowly immigration agents she could not board the plane, and the once powerful husband standing helpless while being led away from the airport.

The couple could not have imagined it that scene happening to them. Wasn’t it just a little more than a year ago when even Cabinet members and generals trembled at the prospect of being dressed down in public by Arroyo? Wasn’t it just a little more than a year ago when she nearly got away with changing the only form of government Filipinos have ever known just so she could stay in power? Wasn’t it just a few memories ago when she could make millions intended for programs to alleviate poverty disappear and re-appear in her or some ally’s campaign kitty? Or make a million votes disappear from her opponent’s tally and re-appear in her own?

She was one of the most powerful women in the world for some time, thus claim Forbes and other magazines, and perhaps the most powerful leader of a supposed democratic country who could not even claim legitimacy through the polls. And her husband was considered the most influential person in the country, who could make and unmake politicians and businessmen.

And yet, there they were being stopped by lowly immigration agents, who just a year ago, would have been carrying their suitcases or escorting them to their plane.

Indeed, it was a long way from being the rising superstar of Philippine politics to being the most reviled leader in Philippine history next or equal only to the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. It was karma at its highest form, a true-to-life proof of Newton’s Third Law.

In other times, the executive branch’s apparent defiance of a Supreme Court order would have triggered a constitutional crisis. A leader of less courage and political will would have backed down and let the Arroyos go. But it was apparent that President Benigno S. Aquino III was hell-bent on prosecuting Arroyo and her accomplices on poll fraud and corruption charges.

If he had let the Arroyos leave, it would have been the start of his own downfall. After all, Aquino ran on the strength of a promise to go after those who were responsible for the corruption and other atrocities in the previous administration. Letting the Arroyos go and evade prosecution would result in losing the trust of the people on his political will to cleanse the government of graft and corruption.

Aquino was willing to face the consequences of defying the Supreme Court order, using a legitimate excuse that the TRO had not been served when immigration authorities stopped the Arroyos at the airport. If Gloria and Mike had waited a little longer and carried a copy of the TRO to the airport, it would probably have been different. The Department of Justice may not have been as stubborn in implementing the departure hold order because that would have been clearly contempt of the highest court of the land.

But Gloria and Mike were, for obvious reason, in a hurry to leave the country. It could not have been because Gloria needed to undergo surgery immediately or that it was a matter of life and death. They were in a hurry to leave, and that was enough reason to suspect they were trying to flee from prosecution. They knew that election sabotage, just like plunder for which other complaints are pending against her, is a non-bailable offense and that would mean detention – whether it’s in prison, house or hospital – until the conclusion of the case.

The Arroyo couple has finally got their wish. They had challenged every critic who has exposed their shenanigans to charge them in court. Now their lawyers will have their hands full defending them, what with a few more poll fraud and plunder cases being readied against them.

On Friday, the lawyers questioned the Pasay regional trial court’s arrest order, claiming that the court did not have jurisdiction over the case. They are contemplating on filing contempt charges against Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who has stood her ground against legal threats by Arroyo’s lawyers.

Meantime, Arroyo’s political allies are criticizing the “undue haste” in filing the poll fraud charges against Gloria Arroyo, Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr. and former provincial election supervisor Lintang Bedol. If there was anything that needed to be criticized here, it is not the “undue haste” but the undue delay in the filing of the charges.

There have been more than enough witnesses and evidence to prove the election sabotage case in connection with the 2007 senatorial elections. The Commission on Elections investigating panel, State prosecutors and the Senate committee on electoral reforms have been conducting their separate investigations for several months now.

Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III defended the Aquino administration against allegations of railroading the case, saying it had “passed through experienced prosecutors for a few months.”

“No, it’s not hasty. It’s hasty only to those who failed to leave the country,” he said sarcastically. “I think the government has an airtight case against the former President.”

Pimentel was convinced that the DOJ and Comelec panel was correct in filing the case at the Pasay RTC and not in the Sandiganbayan. He said public officials were charged in the anti-graft court only if they “commit a crime in the performance of their job or in relation to their duty” and that “electoral sabotage, obviously, is not part of the duties of a public official.”

The crime for which Arroyo, Ampatuan and Bendol are being charged happened more than four years ago. During this time, many witnesses have surfaced to corroborate allegations of poll fraud. In fact, the Senate Electoral Tribunal has concluded that Pimentel won by 200,000 votes over resigned Sen. Jose Miguel Zubiri, who was alleged to have benefited from the “dagdag-bawas” operation.

The people will be watching the trial of Arroyo in the same passion as they watched the trial of former President Joseph Estrada, who also credits Arroyo’s downfall to “karma”. He should know whereof he speaks because he himself was the victim of “karma” in 2001.

Let the camps of Arroyo and Aquino trade accusations on the alleged persecution of the Arroyos. But in the meantime, let the trial begin.

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