Former Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, the accused mass murderer of “Maguindanao Massacre” infamy almost convinced President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III into considering him as state witness in the multiple murder case against his father Andal Ampatuan Sr., his brother Andal Ampatuan Jr., and himself.
P-Noy seemed to entertain the notion after he heard Zaldy’s “confession” during an interview with ABS-CBN Radio-TV. Then, suddenly, Zaldy digressed and began spilling the beans on Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her husband Mike for complicity in electoral frauds in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) during the 2004 presidential and 2007 senatorial elections.
Singing like a canary
And just about the same time, fugitive Lintang Bedol emerged after four years in hiding and started singing like a canary. And nothing could have amused P-Noy more than Bedol collaborating Zaldy’s revelations.
Interviewed by ABS-CBN News, Bedol — former Maguindanao election supervisor –claimed that massive cheating occurred during the 2004 presidential elections.
He also collaborated Zaldy’s revelation that Gloria gave instructions in the 2007 senatorial elections to use “dagdag-bawas” (vote padding-vote shaving) scheme to make sure that Benigno Aquino III, Panfilo Lacson, and Alan Peter Cayetano – who were running for re-election — got “zero” votes. The cheating resulted in 12-0 victory for her Lakas-Kampi senatorial candidates in Mindanao.
So, what started as an attempt to become state witness in the Maguindanao massacre, Zaldy – with the collaboration of Bedol – torpedoed Gloria and Mike for electoral fraud in 2004 and 2007. Instantly, Zaldy and Bedol became priceless assets to P-Noy not only in prosecuting Gloria for her role in the “Hello Garci” election cheating scandal but for the massive corruption that existed in the ARMM region during Zaldy’s reign as governor.
“Court of Last Defense”
Recently, Gloria’s legal spokesman Atty. Raul Lambino was interviewed on TV. When asked if he believes that Gloria was innocent of the allegations against her, his answer was it’s up to the Supreme Court to decide her guilt or innocence. I find his answer rather odd. He could have said, “I believe Mrs. Arroyo is innocent of all those allegations,” and nobody would have refuted that since it was just an opinion. But it seems that – subconsciously — Lambino was not convinced that Gloria was indeed innocent and that she would stand nary a chance of being absolved in the lower and appellate courts. If so, then the Supreme Court would be where Gloria would take her last stand.
In my article, “Arroyo’s Court of Last Defense” (PerryScope, December 8, 2010), I wrote: “Indeed, with the Ombudsman as her line of ‘first defense’ and the Supreme Court her line of ‘last defense,’ Arroyo stands on a solid footing safe from prosecution. She could be ‘untouchable.’ However, if Aquino were to exert his political influence and work to consolidate his forces in the House of Representatives to take a bolder approach in impeaching Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, they might find a way to proceed with the impeachment proceeding and break the impregnability of Arroyo’s Court of Last Defense.”
As it turned out, the House impeached Gutierrez; however, she resigned before the Senate trial began. Consequently, the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) interviewed 27 candidates for Ombudsman, four of which were shortlisted and submitted to P-Noy to select his choice for Ombudsman.
But Gloria’s hold on a majority group of Supreme Court justices appears to be slipping. There is no more assurance that the “utang na loob” – debt of gratitude – of her appointees to the high court would still be as strong as before. Within a few years, most of them would most likely consider their indebtedness repaid and relieved of any more obligation to protect her.
It would not then come as a surprise that Gloria would attempt to re-establish the Office of the Ombudsman as her line of “first defense.” But she has to move fast to influence P-Noy into appointing someone who could — or would — shield her from prosecution in the same manner Gutierrez did before.
There is one candidate for Ombudsman who I believe is Gloria’s “Trojan horse,” presented to P-Noy to make sure that if he’s appointed Ombudsman, Gloria would remain untouchable for the next seven years.
Last July 11, 2011, P-Noy told reporters in Roxas City that he’ll not interview all four candidates on the shortlist, maybe only the two who are in his “own shortlist.” However, he didn’t name them because he has yet to inform the other two who were no longer in the running.
Amado P. Macasaet in his latest Malaya column, “Chiz, Ochoa favor GMA,” said that there is a campaign against retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales as the next Ombudsman.
“Strangely,” said Macasaet, “the campaign is headed by President Aquino’s own executive secretary assisted by Senator Chiz Escudero who is presumed to be a Malacañang ally.
“Even more strange is the possibility that the next Ombudsman was a staunch defender of Gloria Arroyo and counsel of resigned Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez when she was under impeachment threat by the House of Representatives.
“Last Tuesday [July 12, 2011], Chiz Escudero accompanied Artemio Toquero, former secretary of justice, to Malacañang for an interview with President Aquino. If Toquero, a member of the Iglesia ni Cristo, is appointed Ombudsman, Gloria Arroyo would have won her campaign against Mrs. Carpio Morales.”
Two days later, on July 14, P-Noy interviewed Carpio-Morales and PCGG Commissioner Gerard Mosquera, who presumably were the two on P-Noy’s “own shortlist.” It became apparent that Tuquero was not on P-Noy’s “own shortlist.” But nevertheless, Escudero accompanying Tuquero to Malacañang for that interview with P-Noy seemed like a concerted effort by him and Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa to pressure P-Noy into appointing Tuquero.
With Ochoa and Escudero backing Tuquero to the hilt, I would not be surprised if P-Noy would accede to appointing Tuquero. And if P-Noy appointed Tuquero, could it be that a “political settlement” of the Aquino-Arroyo war might be in the works, and which would ultimately shield Gloria from prosecution? Makes one wonder what roles would Escudero and Ochoa play in things to come?
“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts”
If P-Noy is really sincere in pursuing his campaign promise, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap,” then he should beware of Greeks bearing gifts. If King Priam of Troy had followed a wise man’s advice, “Do not trust the horse, Trojans. Whatever it is, I fear the Greeks even when they bring gifts.” Indeed, Troy would have survived the Greek invasion if King Priam did not allow the huge wooden horse to enter Troy.
The appointment of the Ombudsman would be the defining moment of P-Noy’s presidency. Will he be written in history as the leader who stopped corruption and broke the yoke of poverty? Or will he be just another cheap politician who broke the promises he made?