|US PRESIDENT Barack Obama with then Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. In the other photo, the columnist and managing editor Claire Rivera Morales True with her Philippines Today co-columnist Art Gabot Madlaing in a meeting with their boss in San Francisco, California
By CLAIRE R. MORALES TRUE
Managing Editor, Philippines Today
Even if some Filipinos have issues against her, the people of Pampanga, especially in our hometown of Lubao, continue to love and revere former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as the province’s favourite daughter just like her late father, President Diosdado P. Macapagal.
This is once again shown as no one came forward to contest her seat in the House of Representatives during the filing of certificates of candidacy (CoC) from October 12 to 16, making her ecstatic for being loved by her constituents. “Thank you for the love and support,” Mrs. Arroyo said in her Facebook account, as she tagged her name with the declaration “feeling loved.”
This is history as this is the first time that Mrs. Arroyo is running unopposed in the second district of Pampanga which covers the towns of Lubao, Guagua, Floridablanca, Sasmuan, Sta. Rita and Porac.
Mrs. Arroyo made her first congressional attempt in 2010 immediately after serving as president of the Philippines for nine years from 2001 to 2010. As the country’s 14th president, she made history as the second president from Pampanga and thus forging the country’s first father and daughter to become president of the land with her late father, President Diosdado Macapagal. They were also the first father-daughter to serve as Vice President. She is also the second lady president of the nation after President Corazon C. Aquino.
In that first run, a handful of candidates challenged her but won by landslide in all the six towns in the district. She snatched 77 percent or 169,109 of the 219,592 votes cast. His strongest opponent then was businessman Adonis Simpao of Liberal Party (LP), which ironically was the party which carried her father to the vice presidency and eventually presidency of the Philippines. Simpao, who belongs to a well-placed family in the district, got 20,922 votes.
Another candidate, Filipinas Sampang, an educator who is married to another educator, Enerico Sampang, whose family is well known in Pampanga, got 751 votes. Enerico’s brother, Art Sampang, had served as vice governor of Pampanga under then Governor Bren Guiao. A fourth congressional candidate, independent Feliciano Serrano tallied 3,586 votes, according to records of the Commission on Elections.
During that 2010 elections, then Sangguniang Panlalawigan Member Lilia G. Pineda, a former mayor of Lubao and a close ally of Mrs. Arroyo, defeated former governor Eduardo Panlilio, a former priest in Pampanga and LP candidate, in their gubernatorial race rematch. Pineda got 488,521 votes against Panlilio’s 242,367 votes. In the 2016 elections, Governor Pineda is also making history as she is running unopposed.
Mrs. Macapagal-Arroyo served her first term present in the plenary from 2010 until her arrest in October 2012. She was ordered arrested on charges of plunder for allegedly stealing P366 million of the intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). While her co-accused, the then Chairman of the PCSO Board, Sergio Valencia, and board members like Manuel Morato, former mayor Raymundo Roquero, Jose Taruc V and Ma. Fatima Valdes, due to weak evidence, have been either cleared of the charges or released on bail (one of them (Roquero) has just been appointed by President Aquino as Sangguniang Panlalawigan member of Capiz), Congresswoman Arroyo remains in hospital detention. She has since brought her case before that to the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (UNWGAD) through celebrated international human rights lawyer Amal Alamudin-Clooney, wife of popular American actor George Clooney. Mrs. Arroyo won her case before the UNWGAD which called for her release. “Mrs. Arroyo was denied bail on grounds that are not compatible with international law; she did not benefit from the presumption in favor of bail; she was denied bail exclusively on the basis of the alleged strength of evidence against her; measures alternative to pre-trial detention were not considered and there were undue delays in considering her bail position in the proceedings against her as a whole,” the UN Working Group had ruled.
Taking the cue from the UNWGAD, the former President filed only on October 15 a 115-page petition before the SC, through her lawyer, former Solicitor General and Pampanga Governor Estelito Mendoza, asking the high court to expedite the resolution of her petition, set the case for oral arguments, suspend the proceedings before the Sandiganbayan while the case is with the SC, and, as a final plea, order the dismissal of the plunder charge. Even before the case reached the UNWGAD and the High Court, Sandiganbayan Justices Alex Quiroz and Rodolfo Ponferrada have recommended that Arroyo be allowed to post bail. Despite agreeing that the demurrer of Arroyo should be junked, the two Justices recommended that Arroyo be freed on bail because the prosecution failed to prove that plunder was committed. “The evidence of the prosecution failed to show the existence of the crime of plunder as no evidence was presented that any of the accused amassed, accumulated and/or acquired ill gotten wealth. In fact, the principal witness of the prosecution, when asked, said she does not know the existence or whereabouts of the alleged ill gotten wealth,” Ponferrada said. That witness has since been removed as lawyer and member of the PCSO Board by Malacanang.
In her reelection bid in 2013, Congresswoman Arroyo again won by landslide despite under hospital arrest for plunder at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City. In fact, her votes rose from 77 percent in 2010 to 78.24 percent of those cast (190,884) or 149,344 votes over her closest rival from the Liberal Party (LP), lawyer and former Pampanga provincial administrator Vivian Dabu, who is a relative from Lubao who got 16,238 votes. Two other candidates, Charlie Chua and Josefina Leoncio, got 1,966 votes and 1,271 votes, respectively.
As a journalist and later as consultant to former Pampanga Congressman and Vice Governor Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, I have seen a bit up close how President Arroyo worked, joining her in some foreign visits, especially in San Francisco and the United States. What I know is maybe just a dot of the whole picture and while many disagree and continue to discredit her, I believe she has done also many things good for our province and country while a member of the Cabinet, Senator, Vice President and President. I am not a lawyer and I do not wish to rush judgement on her cases. Many in our midst, especially in government, are pretenders – behaving that they are immaculately clean when they are not. Our challenge as citizens is how to look forward amidst all these pretentions, unite and work towards improving our country and making the nation a better place for us, our children and for everybody. Let us come out of the ugly cocoon as majestic butterflies flying and soaring high over a beautiful and robust garden just like what our nation should be.
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