With the abrupt resignation of Ombudsman Merceditas “Merci” Gutierrez, the door is now wide open for President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III to fulfill his election promise of bringing ex-president and now-congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to justice. Indeed, with three cases – and more coming — already filed against her, karmic whammy is hitting Gloria with a punishing jolt that could knock her out from the impregnable “fortress” that she built around herself. And with Merci no longer around to protect her, Gloria’s first line of defense was broken.
One, two, three…
The first case against Gloria, a graft complaint by the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), was filed on July 1, 2010, the day after P-Noy was inaugurated as president. The case was in connection to the controversial NBN/ZTE bribery scandal. However, newly appointed Justice Secretary Leila de Lima put the complaint on hold so not to duplicate the work of the newly created Truth Commission whose purpose was to investigate corruption during Gloria’s administration.
The second case was a plunder complaint filed on August 17, 2010 by Danilo Lihaylihay over the alleged anomalous sale in 2007 of the 54.5-hectare old airport in Mandurriao, Iloilo. The property was sold to the giant real estate developer, Megaworld, for P1.2 billion. Lihaylihay, who is the president of the Philippine Association of Revenue Informers Inc., claimed that Gloria’s administration paid the National Treasury the P18 million documentary stamp tax on the sale but did not remit the six-percent tax collected — P72 million – to the national treasury.
But Kim Henares, the newly appointed Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner, said that the government was not “disadvantaged” when Gloria ordered the sale. She said that if anyone should be filing a case, it should be the government, not Lihaylihay.
The question is: where did the P72 million go?
It’s interesting to note that in addition to Gloria, the other defendants in Lihaylihay’s complaint were former Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, former chairman of the Department of Finance Privatization Council John Sevilla, former Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo, and Megaworld chairman Andrew Tan.
The third case – the second plunder complaint – was filed before the Department of Justice last April 26, 2011 over alleged misuse of P551-million worth of funds from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). Former Solicitor General Frank Chavez and the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) group, Migrante International, filed the complaint. Chavez claimed that Gloria violated the Plunder Law for allegedly misusing the funds for “questionable” acquisitions and for her reelection campaign in 2004. Chavez told reporters: “Today is one of those days of reckoning. Some people think that they can run but they cannot hide. The long arm of law will catch up with them in the fullness of time.”
Gloria left a long crooked trail of anomalous transactions involving billions taken from various government funds as well as questionable foreign loans for overpriced projects with layers of hidden “commissions” earmarked for influence peddlers and corrupt government officials.
Indeed, no sooner had Gloria warmed up to the job after ousting Joseph “Erap” Estrada from the presidency on January 20, 2001 did the first anomaly occur under her watch. Within four days, her new Justice Secretary, Hernani “Nani” Perez, approved the contract with the Argentine firm, Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona Sociedad Anomina (IMPSA), to build the Caliraya-Botocan-Kalayaan (CBK) power plants. In 2002, then Manila Congressman Mark Jimenez testified before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee that Perez received $2 million in return for the favorable ruling on IMPSA. His testimony was collaborated by then Rep. Willie Villarama who said that the money was part of the $14-million bribe offered to officials of Gloria’s administration.
With the resignation of Ombudsman Merci Gutierrez, Gloria is now vulnerable to government prosecution on a multitude of graft and plunder cases that have accumulated and gathered dust in the Office of the Ombudsman.
The day after Chavez filed the plunder complaint against Gloria, Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson — Gloria’s nemesis – said he was looking into the possibility of filing a case against her. He said that he has a “baul” (trunk) full of documents, which detailed the anomalies committed during Gloria’s administration. He also said that some former government employees told him that they were willing to help by providing him with “additional documents.” “It’s about time she explained to the people what happened and why there were many anomalies in her administration. Juan de la Cruz deserves an explanation or two from her,” Lacson said.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who would play a pivotal role in building the cases against Gloria said that she would be looking into other cases with the Ombudsman that were shelved because Gloria had presidential immunity from lawsuits.
Now that Gloria is disrobed of her presidential immunity and her first line of defense dismantled with the resignation of Merci, a tsunami of cases is going to hit her in the courts.
Quo vadis, Gloria?
Known for her resiliency – and instinct for survival — during her tumultuous presidency, Gloria is now faced with an uncertain future. With a new Ombudsman to be appointed soon, the wheel of justice is about to start moving again.
And what are Gloria’s options? Not many. Her first option would be to fight like hell. This is going to be a long and costly legal process. How long can she last?
Her second option would be to offer a compromise. But what would she be willing to offer? Return the money or plea a bargain? This would be her best option. But the question is: would the government be willing to bargain with her?
And her third option would be to flee like hell. This might be the easy way out. But where would she go where the long arm of the law couldn’t reach her? Perhaps she might go into exile in a country where the Philippines doesn’t have an extradition treaty… like Portugal.
At the end of the day, Gloria might find a way to wiggle out of her predicament or escape from the law. But one thing for sure, she can’t escape from the Law of Karma. As someone once said, “Nothing escapes the Law of Karma. You get from the world what you give to the world.” And what has Gloria given to the world that she deserves to be given back? Indeed, what goes around comes around.