The Arroyo Presidency: A Legacy of Corruption and Impunity

sona09I got a call from a former comrade, they are now converging on the streets of the EDSA, waiting for the imminent yet another uprising to unfold.

I was inside the former US base where I currently hold my office. It was another period of turmoil and political uncertainty. Then Philippine President Erap Estrada is facing impeachment charges at the floors of the Senate.

I wanted to go to the capital, and join the ongoing protests. But something I felt at that time was out of line. The dreams of the first EDSA never faded. Simply because it never materialized. So seeing another one in the works made me realize my personal reservations on this ongoing second one.

If and when I decide to join another uprising, we must ensure that the would-be revolutionary government would cater to what the people need, and not those of the people who would eventually be in power. This time, we needed to make it right.

Otherwise, we should just let the rule of law, and due process prevail instead. Because if we fail, it would be a tremendous historical error and would put a very bad precedent for the rest of our people. Imagine every unpopular presidency being thrown out of office, it would make a joke out of our electoral processes. And instead of strengthening our democracy, we will only undermine it.

But then, inside the august halls of the senate, the infamous brown envelope was not allowed to be opened. And all hell broke loose. The rest is a shameful decade of an Arroyo presidency tainted with corruption and impunity.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came into power by virtue of a power grab masquerading as a popular revolt. It was a well planed conspiracy that manipulated the crowds of the Edsa Dos into falling into the hands of the devil himself. Or should I say devils.

In fact, months into the presidency, first husband Mike Arroyo admitted in an interview with Nick Joaquin the details of the conspiracy, admitting that they are armed to fight it to the bloody end if need be. The Arroyos simply hijacked our country. Right before our eyes.

But we are active accomplices.

In our collective effort to get rid of a scandalously corrupt president, and our lack of belief in our own justice system, we led ourselves to believe that extra-legal procedures can take away our intricate legal problems. Only to realize that while we ourselves want to con the system, we have allowed others to let ourselves be conned.

A New Level of Corruption

Corruption will always be the rule, not the exception of every administration. But the Arroyo presidency will be the only presidency that would institutionalize it. It was revealed early on her presidency when FG Mike Arroyo became involved in a P50 million bribe involving some presidential veto powers.

Talk about the law for sale to the highest bidder. There was also the $2 million payout to Justice Secretary Nani Perez by then Congressman now turned cuckoo Mark Jimenez regarding a power plant rehabilitation in Laguna. The list went on and on.

I was surprised with the staggering amounts involved. Whew, indeed they have upped the ante of corruption as much as they had inflation. If I was Warren Buffet, I would have bought them out for good.

There was JocJoc Bolante scamming away with P278 million, the unexplained Jose Pidal wealth of P200 million, the overpricing of the Macapagal Boulevrad for P532 million, and the infamous NBN-ZTE deal that is worth billions of dollars. One could only surmise with the exact money changing hands when then Comelec Chief Benjamin Abalos offering then NEDA Chief Romulo Neri of a P200 million bribe.

And the country’s chief of the commission tasked to oversee our election working as a middleman for foreign investors wouldn’t make you think of our elections as compromised?

Was the Hello Garci Scandal not enough for us to think that indeed, our electoral system and the Comelec itself lacks integrity and the moral ascendancy to fulfill its mandate? Do we wait for another Garci copycat Lintang Bedol to surface?

What was disturbing about these electoral cheating perpetrated by among those people who were supposed to be the guardians of our elections were two; 1. the alleged massive cheating was made in Maguindanao which is a bailiwick of the Ampatuans, who would later be famous for orchestrating the most famous massacre of the century, and 2. the alleged active participation of some military generals.

Our armed forces, being historically a pool of coup plotters, have become instruments not of an idealist’s struggle for reform but of petty partisan politics and corruption. The arrest of former AFP Controller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia for unexplained wealth only shows the extent of corruption that had plagued the armed forces. Some even say it was just the tip of the iceberg.

I say it’s just a tip of how corruption had been in our blood and system, armed forces or not. And how it was institutionalized by the Arroyo presidency.

Still, our brothers and sisters in and out of uniform had been had.

A Culture Of Impunity

The leadership that toils corruption inexplicably produces a don’t-care-so-sue-me mentality. It bred a culture of impunity that some compares the Arroyo presidency as that of the Marcos dictatorship.

It made a joke out of the balance of powers of the government by invoking E.O. 464 preventing executive officials from appearing before House inquiries without her consent. Thus preventing laws and issues being heard from moving forward.

Extra judicial killings rose tremendously, and public clamor for justice and calls for justice and a UN report on extra-judicial killings prompted the president to form an independent commission to investigate media and activist killings but only were just for show as they purportedly was not keen on providing the public a view of the finished commission report.

Major General Jovito Palparan had been tagged as “The Butcher “by militant grouops and activists for allegedly masterminding the abduction and summary executions of suspected New People’s Army members, and unarmed civilians merely accused of sympathizing with them.

Despite the allegations of human rights violations, he was awarded and was promoted several times and was even at a time appointed to the National Security Council by Gloria Arroyo.

This whole idea of promoting a murderous psychopath clearly shows how insensitive the Arroyo presidency to the relatives of the victims of the alleged butcher and to the rest of the country stripped of its human rights.

The fight for justice for this forced disappearances and summary executions during the Arroyo presidency can be well presented by the face of Mrs. Burgos, the mother of missing Jonas Burgos who was abducted by gunmen off to a waiting van that was later traced to be in possession of the military.

And what more to magnify our personal security or the lack thereof, than the gut wrenching massacre with the single most number of mediamen murdered, the Ampatuan Massacre. The main suspect being the local warlords of Maguindanao, were locally grown but nationally protected.

If we come back to the last two previous elections, be it by legal means or not, they were the ones who delivered the votes. And unfortunately, by allowing warlordism to evolve within the confines of the law, the Arroyo presidency have allowed those who holds the power to do whatever they want without fear of being subjected to the rule of law.

The faces of the Ampatuans now serves as a perfect picture of how our country had become a victim of the culture of impunity.


I cannot help but reflect on the days preceding Edsa Dos. If only some men had the balls to do what is right than what is politically convenient, if only some people have the nerve to do what had to be done and not of what is merely tactically acceptable, our country should not have gone back to the old days.

The correctness and the incorrectness of the positions held by different groups of the fragmented left also shows how far different such groupings have become. It shows how one group had become merely a progressive voice not much different to a bourgeois liberal advocate, another stayed true to their ideologue with the expense of being alienated from mass popular support, an another to be an opportunist who just wanted to gain mileage and access to a broader mass base in exchange to their inherent ideological virtue.

I personally blame the integrity of the courts. Being the branch of government who had the final say on all matters pertaining to our laws, it should have insulated itself from politics. And as far as the Edsa Dos and so far is concerned, it is my belief that the high court have failed to do so.

I was back at the center of the august halls of the senate, at the time of Pres. Estrada’s impeachment proceedings. The senators who acted as the jury were known allies of Estrada. The sitting judge who had the power to arbitrate the proceedings was then Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. And being the judge, he alone could have acted on the issue at hand. But at that time, he hesitated and blinked. And instead of ordering the opening of the great brown envelope, he passed it on to the senate jurors who were naturally inclined to vote not to.

If only he had his balls, if only we have ours, our history could have been different.

But our books are now embedded with ink, cast in stone. What remains is making sure important lessons are learned, not forgotten. The old black cloud that have remained in our land for almost a decade is washing itself away. A fresh new mandate, a glimmer of hope is again within our grasp. This tide ultimately wrapped in the yellowness of the sun might be our chance to wash away the legacy of blackness left behind by the last decade.

And maybe, just maybe, this time, the yellow dreams of the real Edsa shall prevail.

Barreling The Pork
Olongapo's Due Process Gone Wild
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  1. John

    I say the EDSA Dos reinforced the government culture of ‘wala akong magawa, kasi utos ng itaas.’

    Where I work this is an unwritten rule. Kahit mali. Kahit iligal. Wala daw silang magawa kasi baka pag-initan sila ng itaas.

    Ang masakit, kailangan intindihin sila ng mga nasasaktan nila. Those who are unjustly affected by such action “must understand the situation and just hope for the best.” The liability of the person doing the (wrong or illegal) act is extinguished, simply because ‘utos ng taas’ and ‘kailangan nilang makaiwas sa balik, kung sakasakali.’

    Because of the pervasiveness of this culture, “walang bayag” is not enough to describe it. Mukhang mas tamang tawagin ito na—nawala ang dignidad.

    Example: They know that the bid price is three time what it should be worth. But no one will complain. Even those who do not benefit from the corruption will not raise a finger to point it out. Why? “Baka kasi mapag-initan, sana maintindihan naman ninyo ako,” they would appeal. And you better accept their excuse because buo sa loob nila na “wala naman silang magawa, utos ng taas.”

    Ewan ko ba.

    For all my activist friends (of whatever color or shade), do not stop. You are positively affecting our country, bit by bit. Lahat ng sinasabi ninyong mali sa gobyerno, mali naman talaga.

  2. BURAOT (Author)

    brod, mahirap talaga magtrabaho sa gobyerno. palagi kang maiipit. i do empathize with them when they say “baka mapag-initan sa itaas,” alam natin mali, but oftentimes, totoo naman. papano kung mawalan sila ng trabaho?

    that’s why we need to have leaders that are really accountable to the people.

    but lest we get accused of making excuses, we also needed to act rightfully in accordance to our own mandated task. kasi pag nagpikit pikitan tayo, mas pinalalala lang natin ang problema.

    mahirap kasing sabihin na, unahin natin ang mga nasa itaas para me example. pag nagawa nila yun, gagawin na rin naming nasa ibaba kasi wala na kaming katatakutan or choice kundi sumunod.

    or some would say, let’s start from within ourselves. para makita nung mga nasa itaas at mahiya naman sila. kaso di naman yang mga yan mahihiya kahit na agtutuwad ka pa.

    i always go for a dual solution, hit the problem on two fronts: from the top, and from the bottom. if we do that, then we could meet in the middle. and if we did, then problem solved.

    hayyyy.. wishy washy.

  3. at kahit na the list is verrrryyyyy long, hindi pa rin nahiya si gloria, to tell people of her ‘achievements’. power and money can truly transform anyone into a callous, coldhearted, monster.

    am wishing that there is hope for the country, to rise from the quagmire.

  4. BURAOT (Author)

    bing, lagi naman may hope kahit papano. kaso lang puro hope. weheheh.

  5. hay nako, I suddenly realized, just leave this f@%king country and go somewhere else, charot!!!!
    … that’s what I would do if a I’m a “walang bayag” as Jhon says.. I mean, what we can do, is to be thankful for what we have right now and as a Filipino citizen it is our responsibility to be just and loyal as a human and one more………………………………………………………………………

  6. BURAOT (Author)

    Vince, weheheh. di ko magets ang ibig mo sabihin. it always good to count our blessings and be thankful. but we are not talking about the food we eat on our table. do we need to be thankful for all the corruption our country suffers from our elected leaders?

  7. WT

    Good brief and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignment. Gratefulness you on your information.

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