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Persevere in holding Gloria Arroyo responsible for rights violations and other high crimes

Communist Party of the Philippines

Despite having a standing invitation to have a member of the Supreme Court testify against impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona, the prosecution panel through its head abruptly announced last week that it was resting its case and dropping five of the eight articles of impeachment, in a move that surprised and dismayed broad sections of the Filipino people.

 

The move, initiated by Liberal Party members in the prosecution panel, shut all doors to what could have been an opportunity to expose and clearly demonstrate how Corona employed his position to influence and direct the Supreme Court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order last November 2011 in favor of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo overriding the standing order of the Department of Justice to prevent her from travelling abroad.

There is a consensus that the removal of Corona, an eleventh-hour appointee of Arroyo, is an important step in the campaign to have Arroyo punished for the crimes committed during her nine-year rule. The actions of the Corona-led Supreme Court to allow Arroyo to leave the country and evade facing criminal charges reinforced the view that the Arroyo-appointed chief justice should be removed from office. Otherwise, Arroyo will always have the Supreme Court to unhook her from any legal entanglement, as exemplified last November.

Aquino engaged in power politics to mobilize a great majority of congressmen to have Corona impeached last December and continues to wage a high-intensity anti-Corona publicity campaign banking on the hope that Corona will be pressured to resign in the same way that the threat of an impeachment trial forced former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to resign last year. Corona, however, refused to bow to Aquino’s pressures and has instead stepped up his own campaign against Aquino, mobilizing the resources of the judiciary and presenting himself as a victim of the Aquino “dictatorship”.

As the Senate conducted its trial of Corona, it became increasingly apparent that Aquino’s congressional contingent was ill-prepared and its articles of impeachment hastily drafted. The prosecution dealt lengthily in trying to prove Corona’s dishonesty in his declaration of assets and liabilities, but stopped short of proving his Arroyo connection and why he was appointed chief justice in the first place.

In the face of the sudden cessation in the prosecution’s presentation of its case, there is the widespread cynicism as regards Aquino’s real motives in removing Corona from the Supreme Court. There is a prevalent belief that Aquino wants Corona out principally and solely because the Supreme Court decided against Aquino’s Cojuangco clan in ordering the redistribution of the Hacienda Luisita land.

An Aquino ally recently pointed out correctly that there is much to do beyond the removal of Corona in the effort to prosecute and punish Arroyo. Indeed, what will Corona’s impeachment serve if there is lackluster effort in pressing charges of plunder, gross violations of human rights and other grave crimes against Arroyo? Having so far failed to do so, it is apparent that Aquino is neither serious nor determined to ensure that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is held responsible for all her transgressions during her nine-year rule.

The Filipino people are indignant over the continuing failure and apparent disinterest of the Aquino regime to make Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo responsible for more than a thousand cases of extrajudicial killings and several more thousand cases of gross violations of human rights perpetrated by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) in the course of the nine-year Oplan Bantay Laya campaign of suppression (2001-2010).

They are also disappointed over the continuing failure of the Aquino regime to press charges of high crimes against Arroyo for the numerous cases of plunder involving her and her accomplices, including cases of bribe-taking in the ZTE broadband and IMPSA deals, scams involving the fertilizer fund, the PCSO and OWWA funds and scores of other cases.

Aquino has minced no words in his tirades against the previous regime. Yet, after almost two years in power, and even with his own ombudsman in place, Aquino has succeeded only in charging Arroyo with the relatively minor crime of sabotaging the 2007 senatorial elections in a case which not a few legal observers believe to have been so crafted as to ensure its defeat in court. The complaint of plunder against Arroyo filed by various organizations has been reduced by Aquino’s ombudsman to graft.

Aquino made such a big fuss over preventing Arroyo from leaving the Philippines in November last year and effecting her “arrest” a few days later. Yet, he has stood down on every pleading presented by Arroyo’s lawyers to accord her one privilege after another. Not only has Arroyo been afforded the comforts of hospital arrest based questionable medical grounds (Did she not walk so tall and proud last Monday when she presented herself before court?), she was also accorded a furlough from detention to attend the wake of a relative—a privilege not usually extended to ordinary people facing criminal charges.

While united behind the removal of Corona, the Filipino people must press on with their efforts to make Arroyo responsible for gross violations of human rights and humanitarian law and for acts of plunder. They must press on with efforts to hold accountable all of Arroyo’s cohorts including such military and security officials as Gen. Jovito Palparan, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon, Norberto Gonzales and Raul Gonzales and all those behind Oplan Bantay Laya and the campaign of extrajudicial killings by the AFP and its death squads.

The Filipino people are acutely aware of the politics of accomodation and “forgive and forget” relations among the reactionary ruling classes. In the past 60 years under the puppet republic, not one of all those who plundered, suppressed and trampled on the people’s rights has been punished. On the contrary, they have been rewarded with government positions and regaled in the reactionary annals.

Torturers, stalwarts of martial law, benefactors of the Marcos dictatorship, implementors of Arroyo’s brutal Oplan Bantay Laya, corrupt officials of the past regimes stand side-by-side with Aquino as he undertakes his own war of suppression and uses state power and privilege to serve the interests of his own coterie of big businessmen and landlords. However, while they claw against each other in their rivalries to control the power and priviledges of the reactionary state, they are broadly united under the banner of US imperialism, each one trying to prove themselves better than the other in their puppetry to their imperialist master, the only force they all commonly bow to.

The Filipino people must denounce, oppose and struggle against the Aquino regime and its pro-Arroyo accomodations. They must put to task the Aquino regime for its continuing failure to charge Arroyo with the more serious crimes it has committed against the Filipino people.

 

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