[In the Web] Arroyo’s pleas political, not human rights issue

Former Philippine president Gloria Arroyo, wearing head and neck brace, asks to leave the country for medical treatment. Photo: AP Source: AP

By: *

It would be the supreme irony to allow GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Aroyo) to invoke our most sacred human rights protections to escape justice. That would be her supreme, final perversion of our democratic institutions. While countless voices have correctly quoted human rights law, our democracy must recognize GMA’s pleas as a political, not human rights, issue.

Our Bill of Rights is our democracy’s greatest triumph. It is “counter-majoritarian”; it empowers the weakest member of our society to stand against the most powerful members. Wind and sunshine may enter the humblest hovel, but the king must first knock at the door.

The Bill of Rights is applied by the courts with very strict scrutiny in favor of the disadvantaged for whom “those political processes ordinarily to be relied upon to protect minorities” historically do not work: From the Maguindanao massacre victims to millions of starving children who might be fed and clothed with the money from the fertilizer and ZTE scams.

That is why we must pierce legal rhetoric to see what is really at stake.

Portrayed as victim

One, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been portrayed as the victim boxed into a corner and fighting for her survival. Lest we forget, the supposed underdog here is a former President and now a member of the Philippine Congress, with loyal allies and appointees in high places, with a formidable war chest at her disposal, much of it our own money, the criminal complaints say. She is not a political nobody by any stretch of the imagination.

Two, if there was any legal sleight of hand, it lies in the TRO, which consolidated the separate cases of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Jose Miguel Arroyo. In a discussion of this case with some law school classmates, it was asked: How did Mike get to benefit from Gloria’s medical emergency?

Political solution

I would be the first to call for the rule of law, but the image of GMA the human rights victim gives pause. As the Inquirer’s editorial called for, this issue needs a political, not a strictly legal, solution. We must stop looking at the neckbrace and wheelchair in a vacuum and allow our democracy’s checks and balances to play out at the very highest level.

It has been said that the Supreme Court can withstand defiance, but it cannot withstand ridicule, and the Arroyo court has clearly dissipated its reservoir of public trust. The ultimate guardian of our Constitution is “We the People.”

What De Lima is really doing is, beyond the Constitution’s explicit text, asking people to recognize that this is really a political issue. President Aquino seems willing to be judged by history alongside Arroyo and the Arroyo court. Perhaps we should let him.

Legit President checks SC

The textbooks say that to condone a secretary of justice ignoring a Supreme Court order is to go down a slippery slope. However, history has shown that when the referee is punching alongside a boxer, the Filipino people have been ready to throw away the rulebook and reclaim their ultimate authority at Edsa.

Faced with GMA as human rights victim, this is not the best time to demonstrate our commitment to rule of law, to grant a reviled former President her fundamental right to travel, but the worst time, to allow her to escape with impunity in a final, irreparable mockery of the rule of law.


*Raul C. Pangalangan- former dean UP College of Law, currently Professor of Constitutional and Political Law at the UP College of Law


Read full article at http://opinion.inquirer.net/17515/arroyo%E2%80%99s-pleas-political-not-human-rights-issue


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