MANILA, Philippines – Unlike her ordeal when she was imprisoned, former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said her successor, former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino was being treated fairly by the courts.
“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 now are undergoing a fair and even-handed due process,” Arroyo said in a speech at the 4th General Assembly of the Association of Retired RTC Judges of the Philippines in Manila over the weekend.
She said she was grateful to President Rodrigo Duterte for “providing the enabling environment that freed the judiciary from the reign of fear.”
Arroyo was under hospital arrest from October 2012 to July 2016 – during the tenure of Aquino – after the Sandiganbayan antigraft court ordered her arrest and detention. She was released one month after Duterte assumed office when the court dismissed her cases.
Aquino, along with several officials, were facing charges of graft and usurpation of authority before the Sandiganbayan for the death of 44 police commandos in Mamasapano, Maguindanao in January 2015.
Charges of multiple homicide were also filed against Aquino, but the court found no probable cause to charge the former President.
Arroyo said she remained in detention and the “political persecution continued” despite an opinion released in October 2015 by the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that her detention was arbitrary and in violation of her human rights.
She thanked the Supreme Court for granting her Demurrer to Evidence, which resulted in the junking of her case.
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.”
She said she did not hold any personal grudge on her political enemies but on how the justice system was used for political persecution. She said it should stop and it should end with her.
“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,” Arroyo said.
“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,” the former chief executive added.
In her speech, Arroyo enumerated some of the laws enacted during her administration that improved the salaries and working conditions in the justice system.
She said these include R.A. 9227 that increased the salaries and other benefits of judges; RA 9279 that increased the take-home pay of our prosecutors and state counsels through special allowances; R.A. 9282 that created the Court of Tax Appeals, which had a special jurisdiction and wider membership; and R.A. 9285 that institutionalized one of my personal advocacies, mediation as an alternative means of dispute resolution.
Before she stepped down in 2010, Arroyo said she had signed R.A. 9946 that granted additional retirement, survivorship and other benefits to members of the judiciary “(a)s 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.”