I have written about investment scams for some time now and I have long wanted (but never had the time) to write about the biggest scam ever perpetrated on a whole nation. I am talking about the presidency of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo current president of my birth land the Republic of the Philippines. Her ascendancy to the highest position in the land has been mired in controversy from day zero up to now. The infamous expose on the “Hello Garci” tapes (where an election commissioner named Garcillano was reportedly recorded in a conversation with the almighty Gloria talking about ensuring her win in the then on-going elections) never saw its fulfillment!
It must be remembered that Arroyo assumed the presidency from Joseph Estrada who was forced to leave the presidential palace at the height of successive church-led demonstrations spawned by an ongoing impeachment proceeding against him. I still recall watching an interview of the then Supreme Court Justice Davide where he said he will take the oath of office by Arroyo as caretaker president since at that time Estrada has not yet resigned. But lo and behold, Arroyo and her henchmen galvanized her ascendancy to the presidency immediately thereafter and Davide now claims her assumption to power is legal. One of Arroyo’s immediate moves was to make sure the military and the police force is solidly behind her. She showered them with benefits and pay increases and moved up in rank all those who are loyal to her putting them in sensitive positions in the chain of command. She expertly and effectively muffled all opposition to her presidency with money and political clout.
Arroyo did not stop there! She made sure that both congress and the senate are dominated by her henchmen. Traditional politicians who fell out of grace after the Marcos regime came back to power once more and allied with her. Her own two sons and a brother in law won seats in congress. Filipinos abhorred the proliferation of political clans during the Marcos era yet Arroyo resurrected the practice once more. Cause oriented groups who helped Arroyo wrest the presidency from Estrada realized too late the mistake they made.
When presidential elections came, Arroyo went up against Fernando Poe Jr. another popular figure and an Estrada ally. Initial election results showed Poe winning by large margins in the initial counting of ballots. But when the results from the southern islands where the controversial election commissioner Garcillano held sway, the final tally showed Arroyo winning by a slim margin. Poe’s camp claimed the results in Garcillano’s areas were rigged. They showed the media proof of tampered election results but they were prevented from presenting them at the Arroyo- dominated congress which acted as the electoral tribunal under the Philippine constitution. What it did was to accept the contested election results and merely noted the objections of the opposition. This is where the political propaganda of the Arroyo came to play. They effectively countered every issue in the press and gagged anyone who attacks Arroyo with Libel suits. Media became merely a rubber stamp of Arroyo and those who dissents are branded as activists.
I still recall there was one whistle blower from Davao who exposed the election fraud perpetrated by Garcillano for Arroyo in that particular presidential election. He too was gagged! He now drives around the city in a red Ford Expedition complete with several security escorts provided by Malacanang. And guess what he is doing now! He is establishing Jueteng operations (a popular numbers game similar to a small town lottery) all over Mindanao! And the military operative who provided the “Hello Garci” tapes was also effectively gagged after government operatives “convincingly” persuaded his family to appeal to him to retract his testimony.
I also can recall the time opposition senator Lacson got a witness for a case against Arroyo’s husband for financial impropriety involving campaign contributions illegally stashed by the first gentleman. The witness’ family was coerced into appealing to the witness to recant. Not only that, no less than Mike Defensor, a member of Arroyo’s cabinet swooped down on the safe house where the witness was being kept complete with a battalion of the Presidential Security Command in armored vehicles and helicopters. If the witness was ready to recant his testimony, is there a need for such a big military force just to fetch him?
Today, a senate blue ribbon committee is investigating a fertilizer program scam involving more than Php 700M. This was supposedly a legitimate program to provide fertilizers and farm implements. As it is turning out, there were ghost deliveries made, fertilizers that were delivered were grossly diluted, prices were 1000% over priced, and the original farmer recipients were changed to favor choice non-government institutions. And what is funny is the manner the fund was released with haste breaking all protocols! Guess what? These all happened only months before the controversial presidential elections where Arroyo won. Already, with the senate investigation still on-going, three of the witnesses have been found murdered!
I have written a blog about the alternative energy program initiated and spearheaded by Arroyo at the time oil prices were rising. Arroyo, complete with a well-funded multi media campaign heralded the project as the government’s response to the energy crisis at that time. Immediately, she allotted Php500M for the project. The lead government agency tasked to implement the program was the Department of Energy and the PNOC. The public official directly responsible for the release of the fund resigned after refusing to illegally disburse the funds. He was immediately replaced and the fund was released under mysterious circumstances after that. Yet, up to now, we haven’t seen any progress in the program except for some military camps being planted with “tuba-“tuba” which was supposed to provide the feedstock for the alternative energy program. And, guess what again? All these happened only months before that controversial presidential election.
Arroyo served the remaining years of the Estrada presidency. She is currently on the fourth year of her own six year term which is to end in 2010. Already, her cohorts in congress are pushing for approval of a legislation calling for a charter change. If approved, the bill will keep her in power as well as all her incumbent stooges in public office till 2011. Worst, if the proposed charter changes pushes through there will be a change over to a parliamentary form of government headed by a prime minister. Now, you’ve guessed it right! Under the new charter, she can run for the position of prime minister!
Simply put, the Philippines has a president serving more than the number of years allowed in the constitution, and whose assumption to the presidency is froth with cheating and deceit! Yet this president still wishes to cling on to power by engineering a charter change after her current term. The question for every Filipino now is this- will you still allow her to perpetuate the scam beyond 2010.