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Saturday, November 19, 2011
Aquino vs. Arroyo: It's personal
Every president will have his/her hand in the cookie jar.
The next one, supposedly to clean up the mess, would continue the tradition.
A feud between two powerful political families embarrasses the Philippines
The pathetic standoff at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport involving former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Philippine immigration officials Tuesday evening, only highlights how far contradiction among the country’s privileged elite can go – a bitter clash that could plunge the country into a constitutional crisis.
Both camps – the Arroyos and President Benigno S. Aquino III – have only themselves to blame.
Arroyo, bearing a Supreme Court order to allow her to leave to seek medical treatment for a reputed rare bone disease, arrived with her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo to board a flight to Singapore. However, immigration authorities stopped them on orders from Aquino and the Justice Department.
That sets up a confrontation with the Supreme Court, the majority of which she had appointed, issued the order allowing her to seek treatment in any of five countries that do not have extradition treaties with Manila.
Legally, there is nothing that would and should bar the besieged former president from leaving the country in the absence of a proper court order. In fact, Aquino’s Justice Secretary, Leila de Lima said that authorities can’t arrest the Arroyos because no charges have been filed against them. There is an executive order, ironically issued by the former president herself, however, that places a person under a watch list and whose flight outside the country may be stopped by immigration officials. It is an executive edict that is now being questioned before the highest court of the land by the Arroyos.
The Aquino government believes it has a case against the former president and is morally obliged to perform its duty of preventing a potential fugitive from justice from leaving the country. As it now appears, the Aquino government is taking the risk of being cited in direct contempt by the Supreme Court for what the current president believes is his moral obligation. Longtime personal feud The NAIA standoff however is not just mere legal and political issues between two of the country’s powerful political clans, it also has personal undertones to it.
During several attempts to impeach President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo when she was still the president, the Aquinos – at least the Cojuangco side of the president’s family – were among the leaders of the movement that sought her resignation. President Noynoy Aquino’s late mother Corazon, also a former president, went to great lengths to apologize to former President Joseph Estrada for joining the protest movement that led to his ouster. Corazon Aquino played a major role in the installation of Arroyo as president of the republic in the aftermath of Estrada’s impeachment.
Ironically, it is Corazon Aquino, and to some extent her son, who also were among the first to drop Arroyo as an ally and call for her resignation due to corruption and widespread electoral fraud in 2004. It is a falling out that left Arroyo enraged. Under her watch, the vast Hacienda Luisita property of the Cojuangcos was declared subject to the coverage of the land reform program.
Aquino in turn has not got over the fact that the Arroyos pulled all the plugs during the 2010 presidential elections in which the current president won convincingly on an anti-corruption platform.
Both the former and current presidents share the same place in the history of Philippine politics. They are the only presidents whose parents also served as presidents of this oldest republic in Southeast Asia. They practically share the same origin, having roots in central Luzon. Their parents were stalwarts of the Liberal Party, one of the oldest political parties of the country. They are also among the old rich families in the Philippines. Read more.