Hunted and Haunted

Hunted and Haunted

With the signing of Executive Order No.1 creating the Philippine Truth Commission of 2010, President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III set in motion the hunt for corrupt officials during the past nine years and bring to justice those who committed graft and corruption.

In P-Noy’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 26, he set the tone for the battle that lies ahead which would pit his government against former president and congresswomen Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and those involved in plundering the country. P-Noy detailed several anomalies that occurred in the waning days of Gloria’s nine and a half years which includes depleting 70% of the P1.541 trillion 2010 budget, leaving his administration with only around one percent for each month for the remainder of 2010.

Evidently, P-Noy’s SONA was an “indictment” of Gloria for the plunder that began within days of her ascension to the presidency on January 20, 2001, when then president Joseph “Erap” Estrada was deposed in a cleanly executed putsch by a military-civilian group.

Four days after Gloria was sworn in as president by then Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., her newly appointed Secretary of Justice Hernando “Nani” Perez issued a ruling to turn over to the Argentine firm Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona Sociedad Anonima (IMPSA) the controversial contract to rehabilitate the Caliraya-Botocan-Kalayaan power plant in Laguna. After being exposed by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), the Office of the Ombudsman conducted an investigation which led to the filing — six years later in January 2007 — of charges of graft, extortion, and falsification of public documents against Perez and his wife for allegedly taking a $2 million kickback for the hasty approval of the $470-million contract. However, the prosecution faltered and eventually the case fell into limbo. This led Sen. Mar Roxas a year later to criticize Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez for allegedly filing a “weak” case of corruption against Perez.

It is interesting to note that Perez had been jokingly “christened” by Malacañang reporters as the “First Boyfriend.” Perez reportedly gave Gloria an orchid named “Malvarosa Princesa Gloria.”

During Gloria’s presidency, corruption spawned in every level of government creating a kleptocracy that arguably surpassed the Marcos era. It did not then come as a surprise when P-Noy’s campaign slogan, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” (No corruption, no poverty), struck a chord with the people. Vowing to stop corruption and institute “Pagbabago” (Change), P-Noy was swept to victory by the highest margin since the end of the Marcos dictatorship. And with an 88% trust rating, he is riding the crest of a tsunami of change that is hitting the country.

The people want change, now! And P-Noy, as he promised, courageously embarked on a perilous journey that would bring change… and reconciliation. But he emphatically stressed that reconciliation has a price. During his inaugural address, he said: “To those who are talking about reconciliation, if they mean that they would like us to simply forget about the wrongs that they have committed in the past, we have this to say: there can be no reconciliation without justice.” This became the cornerstone of his goal to dismantle the culture of corruption that was gnawing away at the core of our moral values.

It is in this regard that the Truth Commission was created — to investigate and find out “the truth concerning the reported cases of graft and corruption during the previous administration, and which will recommend the prosecution of the offenders and secure justice for all.” P-Noy appointed former Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. to head the Commission, a move that drew mixed reactions. The question is: Can Davide abandon his friendship with Gloria and pursue his mission with the passion of a crusader?

Davide vs. Gloriath

Now the hunt begins: Davide, the hunter; Gloria, the hunted. In a statement issued, P-Noy said, “Executive Order Number 1 begins ‘the process of bringing necessary closure to the allegations of official wrongdoing and impunity.’ ” The Commission has until December 31, 2012 to complete its mission and produce a comprehensive report which would be published upon the directive of P-Noy.

As expected, Gloria indicated that she would cooperate in the investigation. However, it is doubtful if she would willingly provide anything incriminatory to her or her family. In other words, the investigation into her alleged involvement or complicity in the multitude of corruption and plunder cases would surely run into legal and technical blockades. And this is where Davide might be able to overcome the legal obstacles put up by Gloria’s battery of lawyers.

Indeed, Gloria’s first salvo is already in the works. Raul Lambino, legal counsel of Gloria’s Lakas-Kampi-CMD party, indicated that they’re set to question before the Supreme Court the legality of the creation of the Truth Commission. With at least 10 justices including the chief justice perceived to be Arroyo loyalists who could — and would without batting an eye — circumvent the law like what they did with the ban on midnight appointments, the “Arroyo Court” could arbitrarily dismantle the Truth Commission by judicial fiat.

If that happens then P-Noy may have to forget the “truth” — which, after all, many believe is already known — and pursue the normal route; that is, file charges against Gloria and her cohorts before the Office of the Ombudsman. However, should that happen, the main obstacle would be Ombudsman Gutierrez, a close friend of Gloria’s husband, Mike Arroyo.

If that would be the case, then an impeachment complaint for breach of public trust against Gutierrez would be in order. But with the Senate headed again by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, a known Arroyo friend and sympathizer, P-Noy would have a near-impossible mission in bringing Gloria to justice.


But while Gloria might be able to evade prosecution or conviction for corruption or plunder, she would not avoid the merciless torture of her own conscience that would haunt her for the rest of her life. For each waking day, she would witness people and the media ridiculing her and each sleepless night would be a torturous episode of guilt-induced nightmare.

At the end of the day, Gloria has to pay for what she has done to a nation of 90 million Filipinos who suffered and endured the clutches of corruption and the gnawing pain of poverty.

Now, they are free. And hopefully they learned something: Never again should they allow this to happen in their lives.