Ang Bayan GMA Special Report
Gloria Redux: Reviewing the Corrupt and Vicious Arroyo Regime
August 08, 2018
Part 1: The Corruption Trail
Barely two years under the Duterte regime, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo – political opportunist to the core – is back in the highest rungs of the reactionary government. Arroyo seized the speakership backed by Duterte and Marcos loyalists and her own horde.
Arroyo’s show stopping power grab in Congress vividly displays the rotten political system in the Philippines. With the whole nation as witness, political players brazenly exhibited an utter absence of principles and complete bureacrat capitalist expedience.
To brace ourselves for the certainly insidious plans that the tandem of the dictator wannabe Duterte and the vicious Arroyo have in store, the Filipino people must keep on reminding themselves of the record of corruption and long trail of blood left by her nine-year regim.
Arroyo replaced a president who was deposed due to corruption scandals. Her nine-year presidency, however, far surpassed her predecessor’s crimes. Arroyo’s enduring political power and influence is solidly based on vast amount of wealth accumulated through almost a decade of nonstop corruption. She amassed billions of pesos that she employs to cultivate political patronage and maintain her dominance in the country’s political scene.
The depth and scope of her corrupt maneuvers, surpassed only perhaps by the Marcos dictatorship, primarily involved kickbacks and briberies from big infrastructure projects during her regime. Arroyo, who claims of being an economist, is also a master in manipulating the national budget. She engineered various maneuvers which let her divert funds to serve her aims.
Scandals and anomalies hounded Arroyo’s nine year reign. Independent think tank IBON Foundation estimated in 2008 that corruption scandals cost the Filipino people no less than P7.3 billion. At present, this amount can decently sustain about 16,513 families of six – more or less the population of a small town – for a year.
Under the Benigno Aquino regime, Arroyo was charged with plunder and detained over her office’s questionable use of the P366-million in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) intelligence funds in her last two years as president. The case is actually only the tip of the iceberg. In another case, the infamous “Fertilizer Fund Scam” — over which she was not charged — she criminally diverted public money under the P726 million “Ginintuang Masagana Ani” Program to fund her 2004 presidential campaign.
Another large-scale controversy that sparked massive outrage saw Arroyo and her husband Mike, former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Benjamin Abalos and other officials receiving kickbacks over the proposed National Broadband Network (NBN) project that was awarded to Chinese firm Zhong Xing Telecommunication Equipment Company Limited (ZTE).
The scandal was exposed in 2007 following the signing of a $329.5-million contract for the NBN, a contract that was brokered by Arroyo herself by travelling all the way to China with her husband and Abalos. It was reported that they received kickbacks from ZTE officials for the deal to push through. Jun Lozada, former chief executive officer of the Philippine Forest Corporation, testified about these nefarious deals. Due to widespread protests following the massive scandal, the deal was eventually scrapped.
Just four days after assuming office in 2001, Arroyo was already embroiled in corruption, with the controversial awarding of a $470-million contract to Argentine firm Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona Sociedad Anonima (IMPSA) to rehabilitate a hydroelectic plant in Laguna. The Arroyo regime reportedly took bribes worth a total of $14 million in exchange for expediting the project’s approval.
Arroyo was also known for pursuing overpriced infrastructure projects. This include the controversial Northrail project, that was set to construct a rail line from Caloocan City to the Clark Special Economic Zone. The government entered an anomalous $400-million credit loan agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China, and chose China National Machinery and Equipment Corporation as prime contractor without public bidding. The anomalous project underwent a series of delays, and was eventually cancelled in 2011.
In 2002, the P600-million overpriced GSIS-funded 5.1-kilometer President Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard in Manila was exposed by Public Estates Authority board director Sulpicio Tagud Jr. . Three companies were assigned to build the road, including Shoemart Inc., DM Wenceslao, and Jesusito D. Legaspi Construction (JDLC), with the latter given supplemental contracts that increased the construction cost of their part of the project. The other construction companies were able to build their part of the boulevard at P54,000 per lineal meter, while JDLC built its section at P302,000 per lineal meter.
Arroyo’s other henchmen were also involved in several controversies. Her then transportation secretary Pantaleon Alvarez, the same one whom she recently forcibly replaced as House Speaker, also obtained several overpriced subcontracts for public works at NAIA Terminal 3.
Another case involved the Caucus of Development (Code-NGO) which used the Poverty Eradication and Alleviation Certificates (PEACe bonds) issued by the government to pocket around P1.4 billion in interests. Code-NGO was headed by Socorro Camacho-Reyes, sister of then Finance Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho, and involved other Arroyo officials including then Social Welfare and Development Sec. Corazon “Dinky” Soliman.
Arroyo also coddled the military and police force enabling various officials to commit money heists. In 2011, the “pabaon” or send-off system in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was exposed, a scheme which gave retiring AFP chiefs-of-staff at least P50 million. The outgoing AFP chief General Cimatu (currently environment secretary) benefited from such system. Other prominent cases involving police officials include the “Euro generals” scandal where then police comptroller director Eliseo De la Paz and his group were detained in Moscow for carrying undeclared cash amounting to €105,000 or about P7 million. In 2007, Navy Lt. Nancy Gadian also disclosed the malversation of funds in the 2007 Balikatan joint US-Philippines military exercises, wherein former Mindanao Command Gen. Eugenio Cedo pocketed P2.3 million of the P4.6-million fund for the said activity.
One of the scandals that caused waves of protests that nearly toppled the Arroyo regime was the “Hello Garci” scandal. In 2005, former National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) deputy director Samuel Ong bared audio tapes of wiretapped conversations between Arroyo and then Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, in which Arroyo wanted to ensure that votes from the Lanao provinces will give her a leads of at least a million votes over her opponents, evidence that she actually rigged the presidential polls. This controversy sparked massive protests, prompting Arroyo to air her infamous “I am sorry” speech on live television in June 2005. Other evidence of the 2004 election tampering surfaced in latter years, including the payment of bribes to election officers, especially in Mindanao, to ensure Arroyo’s victory. Witnesses have pointed to then Philippine Ports Authority general manager and presently Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi as overseeing this bribery operation.
Corruption: Arroyo family affair
The corruption also runs in the family, with former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo figuring in the “Jose Pidal” scandal, wherein he was accused of funneling at least P321 million into a secret bank account named Jose Pidal. Even early into the Arroyo regime, in July 2001, Mike Arroyo was accused of taking a P50-million bribe which aimed to make his wife overturn the presidential veto on two franchise bills involving the Philippine Communication Clearinghouse and the APC Wireless Interface Network. In 2012, Mike Arroyo was also charged with graft for selling his used helicopters to the police as brand new.
Arroyo also figured in controversies connected to illegal gambling, something she had in common with her predecessor deposed President Joseph Estrada. Arroyo, who served as godmother to Central Luzon jueteng boss Bong Pineda’s son, was allegedly given P300 million by the Pinedas to fund her 2004 presidential bid. Another witness even claimed that Pineda’s wife, Lilia Pineda, handed out envelopes containing P30,000 each in a party at Arroyo’s residence in La Vista, Quezon City to several election officials in January 2004, barely four months before the presidential elections.
In Senate hearings on jueteng in 2005, Mike Arroyo and son Mikey again figured in as protectors of gambling operations, with witness Sandra Cam testifying that jueteng operators and bagmen in various regions gave monthly payoffs to the Arroyos worth P500,000 to P1 million each.
Dodging impeachment bullets
All of these corruption scandals did not go unnnoticed, with the Arroyo regime not only sparking massive protests left and right, but also regularly facing impeachment complaints. After sneakily winning the 2004 presidential elections, Arroyo annually faced impeachment cases, which she all survived with the help of her wide net of political patronage financed primarily by pork barrel.
The annual impeachment complaints from 2005 to 2009 accused Arroyo of vote-rigging, corruption, and human rights abuses, but were all readily dismissed by majority of legislators in the House of Representatives, proving how well-entrenched Arroyo’s sway is in Congress.
Part 2: The Trail of Blood
When news broke out of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s brazen takeover of the speakership in the House of Representatives, many parents and relatives of desaparecidos – persons disappeared by state actors – most of whom were in people’s protests for the State of the Nation Address (SONA) that day, cried in grief and howled in protest.
Such parents include the mothers of Karen Empeño and Sherlyn Cadapan, two UP students who have been missing since June 2006. Investigations have shown that the two were seized by military elements in their rented house in Hagonoy, Bulacan, where the two were staying as they did advocacy work for farmers in the area.
It was subsequently revealed that their disappearance was orchestrated by no less now retired Army Major General Jovito “The Butcher” Palparan. They were reported to have been kept and tortured in a secret dungeon at Fort Magsaysay in Nueva Ecija.
Empeño and Cadapan are among the 206 victims of enforced disappearances recorded by human rights groups under Arroyo’s nine-year regime. Records also reveal a total of 1,206 victims of extrajudicial killings, over 2,000 cases of illegal arrests, and over 800,000 victims of forced evacuation.
Following the trail of blood left behind by the Arroyo regime, it is no wonder that Duterte finds in Arroyo a kindred spirit, a fellow monster having brutal disregard for human rights. Just two years under Duterte, he has in fact surpassed Arroyo’s heinous record.
Most of the Arroyo regime’s victims were peasants, with a total of 603 farmers killed under her nine-year regime. Many of them fell victim to the brutal attacks under her counterinsurgency Operation Plan Bantay-Laya 1 and 2, which involved red-tagging legal progressive organizations and including the names of activist leaders in an “order of battle” under the AFP’s “Know Your Enemy” campaign.
One of the most heinous crimes committed against the peasant sector was the Hacienda Luisita massacre. In 2004, following the issuance of an “assumption of jurisdiction” order by then Labor Sec. Patricia Santo Tomas, military forces under the Northern Luzon command were mobilized to break up the strike of the millworkers and farmworkers of Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac. On November 16, soldiers opened fire at the strikers killing at least seven and leaving 121 injured .
Palparan is one of the foremost blood-thirsty tbe Arroyo regime, with Arroyo herself acknowledging his so-called achievements in her 2006 SONA. He left a trail of blood wherever he was assigned – including Mindoro, Eastern Visayas, and Central Luzon.
Aside from the abduction of Empeño and Cadapan, Palparan also orchestrated the killing of human rights defender Eden Marcellana and peasant leader Eddie Gumanoy in Mindoro, UCCP Pastor Edison Lapuz and Atty. Fedelito Dacut in Leyte, and Supreme Bishop Alberto Ramento of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, all under Arroyo’s reign.
Another incident of enforced disappearance involves farmer-activist Jonas Burgos, son of late veteran journalist Jose Burgos Jr. He was abducted by military agents in a restaurant at Ever Gotesco Mall in Quezon City on April 28, 2007 using a military impounded vehicle. Burgos has been missing since then. Current Department of Interior and Local Government Officer-in-Charge Eduardo Año, who was then head of the Army’s intelligence division, is implicated in the disappearance of Burgos.
Arroyo was also patently anti-worker. Between 2001 and 2010, labor groups recorded a total of 199 workers’ strikes, most of them confronted with the excessive use of state force.
One of the most brutal strikes recorded in the history of the labor movement involves Nestlé Philippines, in the 2002-2005 strike launched by workers at the Cabuyao factory. In January 2002, a force of over a thousand police was deployed and attacked striking workers at their picket line at the factory gate. Amid worker defiance, the Arroyo regime applied a greater military force to brutaly suppress the strike. At least 23 were killed, including union leader Diosdado “Ka Fort” Fortuna, who was assassinated on his way home from a picket line on September 22, 2005. Ka Fort suffered the same fate of former union president Meliton Roxas, who was also assassinated in the picket line in 1989, during a strike held in the same company involving the same issue.
As Arroyo intensified her corrupt, repressive, and criminal activities, the people’s dissent also mounted. Thousands of people regularly flooded the streets to protest. This came at a time when the Arroyo regime was very much isolated and despised by the nation, especially as scandal after scandal piled up against the regime.
In 2005, Arroyo introduced the “calibrated preemptive response” (CPR) policy, which replaced the “maximum tolerance” usually implemented by police forces when handling rallies and demonstrations. The CPR was enforced following a series of large demonstrations against Arroyo, who at that time was at the height of the “Hello Garci” scandal. The CPR enabled state forces not only to violently disperse rallyists, but also conduct arrests.
In 2006, Arroyo formed the Inter-Agency Legal Action Group (IALAG) to mount legal attacks, including filing of trumped-up charges, to silence her critics. Created under Executive Order 493, the IALAG is composed of the Office of the National Security Adviser, Department of Justice, Department of National Defense, Department of Interior and Local Government, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP), National Bureau of Investigation and other units. The IALAG was headed by national security adviser Norberto Gonzales.
Among the legal offensives mounted by the IALAG was the filing of rebellion charges against the so-called “Batasan 6” partylist representatives which included the late labor leader Crispin “Ka Bel” Beltran; the murder charges against 72 Southerm Tagalog activists in relation to an ambush incident in Mindoro Oriental in 2006; the charges of arson, destruction of property and conspiracy to commit rebellion against 27 Southern Tagalog activists – including Atty. Remigio Saladero, founding member of National Union of People’s Lawyers – in connection with the burning down of a Globe cell site in Lemery, Batangas; and the murder charges against then Bayan Muna Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño, Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano and Gabriela Rep. Liza Maza, which the Duterte regime has curiously revived just a few days after Arroyo became House speaker.
In 2007, Arroyo also signed into law the Human Security Act (HSA), which contained vague provisions on terrorism that are prone to abuse. Under the HSA, anyone opposing the state can be accused of being a “terrorist” or committing “acts of terrorism.” The fangs of this law – repressive as they already are – are now being sharpened further by the Duterte regime, which seeks to immediately amend the law and widen its repressive powers.
Arroyo’s almost-decade long reign of terror has imposed upon the country what many call the “climate of impunity,” a situation that normalizes the use of force, violence, and bloodshed. This has invariably resulted in other heinous crimes perpetrated by other government officials under Arroyo’s regime. Probably the most heinous case is the Maguindanao massacre in November 2009, wherein henchmen of the Ampatuan political dynasty in Maguindanao killed 58 victims – including at least 34 journalists – who were on their way to filing a certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu, who planned to run against Andal Ampatuan Jr. for the mayoralty position in the town of Datu Unsay. This incident, ironically, prompted Arroyo to put the whole of Maguindanao under the state of martial law on December 2009, supposedly to prevent “lawless violence.”
Part 3: Confluence of Interests
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s power and influence remain undiminished almost a decade after having left Malacañang and despite being put under four years of hospital detention. With Rodrigo Duterte at the helm, she was promptly released from detention allowing her to assume her seat in the higher echelons of state power.
For two years now, Arroyo has been a reliable Duterte ally. Claiming the House speakership was only a matter of time.
With the support of Imelda Marcos, and endorsement by Duterte’s daughter Sara, Arroyo installed herself as Speaker with relative ease. In doing so, she has helped consolidate the Duterte-Arroyo-Marcos alliance.
With Arroyo, Duterte sees better prospects for the charter change scheme under the pretext of pushing for the federal form of government. They have shared interests in the scheme as these would allow them to perpetuate themselves in power, jointly or otherwise.
All the Queen’s menFor Arroyo, coming back to the center of the political arena was not a difficult endeavor. After all, most of Arroyo’s minions and allies remain in positions of power, making it easy for her to maintain considerable influence in all three branches of the reactionary government.
The overwhelming votes for Arroyo’s speakership speaks volumes of her dominance in the Lower House. She garnered 187 votes or 67% of congressmen in attendance. As Speaker, Arroyo can use the pork barrel system to further extend her influence in the lower house.
Arroyo also appointed during her term as president six out of 15 current justices of the Supreme Court (SC), including Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, and Justice Lucas Bersamin, who the SC en banc recently nominated as the next chief justice. Even Samuel Martires, who Duterte recently appointed as ombudsman, was also appointed by Arroyo as Sandiganbayan associate justice in 2005.
In Duterte’s own cabinet, a number of secretaries have once served under Arroyo, including:
Alfonso Cusi – the current Energy secretary, who served Arroyo as general manager of the Philippine Ports Authority (a lucrative post that many surmise as the source of his current unexplained wealth). He was also linked to the 2004 presidential election rigging controversy.
Roy Cimatu – current Environment and Natural Resources secretary, who served as the 30th Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in 2002.
Francisco Duque III – current Health secretary. He first served as president and chief executive officer of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) in 2001. He then served as cabinet secretary in 2004, then as health secretary from 2005 onwards.
Eliseo Mijares Rio Jr. – the acting secretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology. He served as commissioner of the National Telecommunications Commission in 2001.
Eduardo Año – the acting secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government. He also served as chief of staff of the AFP under Duterte in 2016. Under Arroyo, he served as head of the Army’s intelligence division and is believed to be the mastermind in the abduction and enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos.
Fortunato dela Peña – the current Science and Technology secretary. He began his stint in the said department as undersecretary for Scientific and Technological Services for 13 years.
Silvestre Bello III – the current Labor secretary. He served as cabinet secretary under Arroyo.
Delfin Lorenzana – the current Defense secretary. A known US lackey, he served as Defense and Armed Forces Attaché to the US during the Arroyo regime wherein he helped develop the US-Philippines Balikatan Exercises.
Bernadette Romulo-Puyat – the current Tourism secretary. She is the daughter of Alberto Romulo, who served Arroyo in various capacities, including being the secretary of Finance, Executive secretary, then Foreign Affairs secretary. Romulo-Puyat herself was part of the Presidential Management Staff during Arroyo’s tenure.
Hermogenes Esperon – the current National Security Adviser. He served as the 36th Chief of Staff of the AFP in 2006.
With Arroyo back in power – with the help of the Marcoses and the Dutertes – an unholy alliance of plunderers and fascists has been formed. Right now, this alliance is persevering to pass the regime’s priority bills, especially the draft Federal Constitution, which will enable them to consolidate and extend power.
Arroyo is all too familiar with this move, as during her term, her regime attempted to push for constitutional reforms several times. In 2005, she issued Executive Order 453 which created the consultative commission to revise the 1987 Constitution. However, despite the recommendations of the said commission, Arroyo decided to push only for one amendment – to change the presidential form of government with a
THE SPEAKER AND THE GHOST OF THE HELLO GARCI SCANDAL
On the afternoon that the Hello Garci tapes were aired, BAYAN members trooped to the QC Scout Circle and staged a protest rally denouncing the tampering of election results to favor GMA and others. Here are photos of that protest rally. June 7, 2005. Renato Jr. Reyes, Prof. Giovanni Tapang, Kadamay’s Nanay Mameng, etc were 13 years younger.
THE HELLO GARCI SCANDAL (from Wikipedia) The Hello Garci scandal (or just Hello Garci), also known as Gloriagate, was a political scandal and electoral crisis in the Philippines. The scandal involved former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who allegedly rigged the 2004 national election in her favor. The official results of that election gave Arroyo and Noli de Castro the presidency and vice-presidency, respectively. Hundreds of national and local positions were also contested during this election. The scandal and crisis began in June 2005 when audio recordings of a phone call conversation between President Arroyo and then Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, allegedly talking about the rigging of the 2004 national election results, were released to the public. This escalated when the minority of the lower house of Congress attempted to impeach Arroyo. This was blocked by Arroyo’s coalition in September 2005 and no trial took place. Allegations against Arroyo and her accomplices in government are many, including electoral fraud and a subsequent cover-up. The administration has denied some of the allegations and challenged others in court. The House of Representatives, which is dominated by Arroyo’s coalition allies, blocked attempts for an impeachment trial. Arroyo’s most well-known alleged accomplice from the electoral commission, Virgilio Garcillano, was missing for a few months, but returned to the capital in late 2005. Allegations persist regarding possible conspirators from the government who helped in his escape, and another alleged cover-up. Garcillano denied any wrongdoing, before his disappearance, and after his return. In December 2006, Garcillano was cleared of perjury charges by the Department of Justice.