BLIND SPOT: Presidents and former Presidents

December 21, 2017

 

In former President Noynoy Aquino’s recent appearance in the Senate in the dengue vaccine investigation, I just notice that there seems to be a chain of accusations in the Philippine presidential administrations.  

“The Office of the Ombudsman has filed graft and usurpation of authority charges against former President Benigno Aquino III before the Sandiganbayan… in connection with the 2015 Mamasapano incident.”  (newsinfo.inquirer.net)  Let’s see what becomes of this dengue vaccination probe in the Senate; when it seems to be heading towards similar direction.  

In the previous administration of former President Noynoy Aquino, a case was filed against his predecessor former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds intended for charity for intelligence gathering to avert terrorism and other destabilization efforts; an accusation which the Supreme Court has acquitted Arroyo who was detained for four years for the case.  “Throughout his six-year term, Aquino highlighted the irregularities that had taken place during the nine-year Arroyo administration and never missed an opportunity to bash her, blaming her for the country’s problems.” (newsinfo.inquirer.net)  During the acquittal, Arroyo has been serving as Pampanga representative in the Congress.  

Once again, in the prior administration, the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo government filed cases of plunder against her predecessor Joseph Estrada; a case which succeeded in conviction. “Estrada was accused of allegedly receiving P545-million protection money from jueteng operators; diverting P130-million tobacco excise tax share of Ilocos Sur; receiving P189.7-million kickback from Belle Corp. for GSIS, SSS purchase of P1.8-billion worth of shares of stocks and maintaining P3.23-billion “Jose Velarde” account with Equitable-PCIBank Binondo, Manila branch.  He was also charged with perjury for alleged false declaration of his 1999 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.” (www.gmanetwork.com)  Almost immediately after the conviction, then President Arroyo pardons the convicted former President Erap.  Philippine politics doesn’t run out of dramatic twists and turns.  Now, the former President Erap who has long stood as an iconic son of San Juan City, is now mayor of Manila.  

Once again, in the administration of former President Erap Estrada, he continually passed accusations against his predecessor former President Fidel Ramos in the PEA Amari land scam; (which he seemed to resort to when the media pointed out ills of his administration then).  “Charges of alleged massive corruption or misuse of funds blemished the Centennial Expo and Amphitheater at the former Clark Air Base in Angeles City, Pampanga.  The commemorative projects were hounded by illegal electioneering and corruption controversies even years after the Centennial celebrations. Six ranking Ramos cabinet members and officials, headed by Chairman Salvador Laurel (former Vice-President) of the Centennial Commission were cleared by the Ombudsman and Sandigan Bayan.  Ramos appeared before a Congressional Committee to help exonerate said officials of any wrongdoing.” (https://en.wikipedia.org)  What relatively sets this case apart from those that would come after it is that the former President did not seem to face any di
rect charges; and somehow he managed to save his reputation to be relatively untarnished.  

This chain would be cut between former President Ramos and former President Cory Aquino.  No accusations against his predecessor then.  How could he?  The former President endorsed his candidacy which did much to boost his campaign opposite close contender Ramon Mitra.  Remember the bearded Speaker of the House who could pass as  KFC’s Colonel Sanders?  

The prior administration is a no-brainer.  The Marcos administration is historically recognized to be replete of ills worthy of charge and accusation.  Now here’s something interesting, “in 1962, the reformist administration of President Diosdado Macapagal was rocked to its foundations by the Stonehill corruption scandal, in which the government deported American industrialist Harry Stonehill on charges of tax evasion, economic sabotage, blackmail and corruption of public officials,.  The government’s case was built on 35 truckloads of documents seized by 200 agents of the National Bureau of Investigation in raids on March 3, 1962, on 27 offices and corporations in Manila controlled by Stonehill, which included  the so-called Stonehill Blue Book, a ledger that listed more than 200 officials who received money from him in the course of his transactions with them. What made the Blue Book politically explosive was that it contained entries that showed the President himself and the leading Liberal Party senator,
Ferdinand Marcos, took money from Stonehill.  (opinion.inquirer.net)  The succeeding administration of Marcos did not file vindictive cases against Macapagal’s, unlike the tradition  exercised by the Philippine presidents from the late 1990s to the present.  (How could he when he himself was included in the officials implicated in the scandal?) The highest ranking government official to get hit in this scandal was then Justice Minister Jose Diokno who resigned due to the controversy.  Interestingly, the then President and a future President of the Philippines shared in the listings of politicians who had received payoff.  

When the Japanese forces formally surrendered to the United States on September 2, 1945,, “Gen. Douglas MacArthur ordered the arrest of Jose P. Laurel Laurel (President of the Japanese puppet state in the Philippines) for collaborating with the Japanese. In 1946 he was charged with 132 counts of treason , but he was never brought to trial due to the general amnesty granted by President Manuel Roxas in 1948. (https://en.wikipedia.org)  That’s about all I can get about Presidents’ conflicts with their immediate predecessors before the Macapagal administration.  If there were any more, they must have been buried in history.  

So, this Philippine phenomenon of the incumbent accusing the head of state who formerly held his/her position is a millennial thing.  If this tradition would continue (which it may probably will), we might very well see a former President Rodrigo Duterte facing charges initiated by his successor in Malacañang.  Oh well, Merry Christmas.  

“Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?“
 

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