By 2003, Arroyo’s name had been enmeshed in no less than ten large-scale corruption scandals.
Having spent only three years continuing her predecessor’s term, Arroyo was constitutionally allowed to run for the 2004 presidential elections – where she won amid allegations of massive fraud.
Discrepant figures in the election returns and certificates of canvass cast doubts on the credibility of the 2004 presidential elections. In the end, however, she was proclaimed winner by more than 1 million votes against her closest rival, the actor Fernando Poe, Jr. who died without seeing the conclusion of his electoral protest.
In mid-2005, Arroyo faced a major challenge to her government following the surfacing of the so-called “Hello Garci” tapes.
The “Hello Garci” tapes were a series of wiretapped and recorded conversations in which a voice similar to Arroyo’s is heard instructing an election official – widely believed to be former Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano – to rig the presidential polls. There is a specific instruction that a victory of “more than 1 M” be ensured for the woman.
Both Arroyo and Garcillano were forced to admit that they talked to each other during the counting period following the 2004 polls. They have however denied rigging the said elections.
The surfacing of the “Hello Garci” tapes triggered widespread demands for Arroyo’s resignation or removal from office. Here the EDSA II forces and the pro-Estrada groups found a common cause.
Human rights violations would become rampant from 2004 – underscored by present figures from Karapatan (Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights) pointing to more than 880 extrajudicial killings and more than 180 enforced disappearances since 2001. Likewise corruption would also worsen – with the latest cases being the National Broadband Network (NBN) deal between the Philippine government and China’s ZTE Corp., and the distribution of “cash gifts” to congressmen and governors in a Malacañang meeting last October.
Arroyo has been the subject of three impeachment complaints citing her for bribery, graft and corrupt practices, betrayal of public trust, and culpable violation of the Constitution – the same charges against Estrada. All impeachment complaints were thrown out through the sheer tyranny of numbers at the House of Representatives.
Jan. 20, 2008 marks Arroyo’s seventh year in office – making her the longest-serving Philippine President since the late Ferdinand Marcos.
March to EDSA Shrine
The participants in the Jan. 18 commemoration – Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan or New Patriotic Alliance), Black & White Movement, KMLG, Union of the Masses for Democracy and Justice (UMDJ), Concerned Citizens Group, Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino (Filipino Masses’ Forces), and Kubol ng Pag-asa – marched to the EDSA Shrine after the indoor activity at LSGH.
They intended to light candles at the EDSA Shrine – the site of the People Power II uprising where seven years ago, policemen trooped after then Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Panfilo Lacson was forced by his officers to withdraw support from Estrada. This time, however, the ralliers were stopped by the police from going near the shrine.
“We were the ones who put Arroyo in Malacañang, but now we are prohibited from setting foot (at the EDSA Shrine),” said Bayan Muna (People First) Rep. Satur Ocampo.
The ralliers settled for lighting candles along the sidewalk.(Bulatlat.com)