By Ben Rosario
Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said President Duterte has given former President Benigno Aquino III fairer treatment than what she received from the previous administration and has freed the country’s justice system from a “reign of fear.”
Addressing the 4th General Assembly of the Association of Retired RTC Judges of the Philippines at the Manila Hotel on Saturday, Arroyo said:
“I’m not saying that political figures should be immune from prosecution, but I’m saying that the process should be fair and even-handed – as I believe that the cases against Noynoy Aquino and his allies are now undergoing a fair and even-handed due process.”
She thanked President Duterte for “providing the enabling environment that has freed the judiciary from the reign of fear.”
Jailed for at least four years of the six-year term of office of Aquino, Arroyo quoted a newspaper report that Aquino was “set to appoint a Sandiganbayan magistrate to the SC as a reward for the conviction of Arroyo.”
Aquino’s vow failed to materialize because the Supreme Court reversed the Sandiganbayan and dismissed the non-bailable plunder charge filed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, she said.
The SC decision came after over three years that she was ordered confined under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, she said. Before this, she was held under hospital arrest for nearly a year on an electoral fraud complaint.
She recalled that prior to the SC ruling, the Sandiganbayan First Division had turned down most of her pleadings for house arrest, demurrer to the evidence, and other legal issues.
She said her “political persecution” continued notwithstanding the filing of a human rights violation complaint against the Aquino administration before the United National Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights. Both the Aquino administration and the Sandiganbayan ignored the appeal of the UN body to free her from detention, she said.
She thanked the Supreme Court for granting, on a vote of 11-4, the Demurrer to Evidence which, according to legal experts, is tantamount to an acquittal. She noted that of the 11 justices who voted to acquit her, three were Aquino appointees which, she said, “reflects the strength of the argument that I was innocent of the charges filed against me.”
Arroyo said justice system was used for political persecution. She said it should stop and it should end with her case.
“Many ask how I feel about the persecution I underwent. Any rancor I have is not personal. My rancor is more against the whole system of persecution using the justice system. I don’t wish what happened to me on my worst enemy. The whole thing of using political power to persecute political enemies using the justice system must stop. Let me be the last victim,” she said.
She enumerated some of the laws enacted during her administration that improved working conditions in the justice system, such as RA 9227 which increased the salaries and other benefits of judges; RA 9279 which increased the take-home pay of prosecutors and state counsels through special allowances; RA 9282 which created the Court of Tax Appeals which had a special jurisdiction and wider membership; and RA 9285 “which institutionalized one of my personal advocacies – mediation as an alternative means of dispute resolution.”
Before she stepped down from office in 2010, she said, she signed RA 9946 which granted additional retirement, survivorship, and other benefits to members of the judiciary – “my farewell tribute to our judges because you lay your lives on the line as you protect the disposition of justice and the integrity of our courts.”