Wenceslao: Surviving graft or plunder case

THE Supreme Court dismissing the plunder case that was the basis for the “hospital incarceration” for four years of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has given a new twist to the intensified campaign initiated by the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III against corruption in the government bureaucracy. Arroyo was one of the big fishes netted by Aquino's drive against corruption, the others being senators Juan Ponce-Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.

While we have to respect, albeit grudgingly, the Supreme Court decision, that does not prevent us from noting the timing of the release of the ruling. A new administration led by President Rodrigo Duterte is in place in Malacañang and Duterte has long been pushing for Arroyo's release. Interestingly, among the people that Arroyo thanked after the ruling was handed down was Duterte himself. These can be subject of speculations in the coming days.

The Office of the Ombudsman naturally contradicted the Supreme Court ruling that the evidence in the plunder case is weak and raised the possibility of filing a motion for reconsideration. Considering the vote, which was 11 against 4, overturning the ruling seems a long shot. But Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, said the anti-graft office may file another plunder case against Arroyo soon.

Which brings me to my point. While the Supreme Court ruling has given Arroyo some bragging rights, even to the point of warning that she would go after her supposed tormentors, this is only one case. Arroyo and nine former Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) officials were accused of conspiring to plunder PCSO intelligence funds amounting to P366 million from 2008 to 2010. Morales said the new case may involve PCSO intelligence funds from 2004 to 2007.

What I am saying is that Arroyo cannot claim that because the Supreme Court dismissed the plunder case she was facing she is already spotless, which is the gist of her recent p.r. stunt. Remember that impunity reigned during her nine years in Malacañang, especially after she won in the 2006 presidential elections. I doubt if the people have forgotten that. Or if they did, then God bless us all.

Anyway, this is another instance wherein the meandering ways of our justice system and the shifting tides of the country's politics are being exploited by the big fishes to evade prosecution, incarceration or conviction. The same had happened in the cases of the Marcoses and the cronies of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. For how do you think Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and businessman Eduardo Cojuangco survived the ouster of the Marcos dictatorship in the 1986 People Power uprising?

The strategy is like this. Once a graft or plunder case is filed, the accused would seek to lengthen the prosecution process by hiring the best lawyers who would ensure that the case would meander for years. The purpose is to wait for the shift in the political tide when an administration friendly to the accused would take over Malacañang. Or the accused can help ensure that a friendly administration could take over by betting on a candidate and supporting him.

Why do you think Cojuangco, after losing in his presidential bid, maintained a political party and a “stable” of congressmen? Why do you think the Marcoses, aside from running for government positions themselves, forged alliances with politicians and political parties? That was their insurance of better treatment, if ever.

(khanwens@gmail.com/ twitter: @khanwens)
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