by INA ALLECO R. SILVERIO
MANILA – Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said the failure of the government of Benigno Aquino III to file a criminal case against the former president has put it in a legally untenable position.
Justice secretary Leila de Lima admitted that Arroyo has been granted asylum papers in the Dominican Republic last October 25, 2011. De Lima said she received a message from official channels regarding the matter and her office has already initiated means to verify the information. She told the media that the information cannot be dismissed or treated lightly.She also said the DOJ is already coordinating with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) over the verification process.
It was previously reported that it was Dominican Republic Ambassador to India Hans Dannenberg who personally delivered the asylum papers to Arroyo last October. Bayan said the Aquino government is to blame for this.
Arroyo’s health woes and the Aquino government’s weak stance on the matter of prosecuting her for her crimes committed in office have been the subject of debate for the last few months. Bayan’s Reyes expressed cynicism over President Aquino’s statement that he wants to keep GMA in the country sans any court order and that he is even willing to shoulder the travel expenses of Arroyo’s doctor of choice.
The DOJ has thumbed down Macapagal-Arroyo’s hopes of having her bone ailment treated abroad. Aquino offered to shoulder the expenses and medical charges of international experts of her choice to perform the required treatment.
Macapagal-Arroyo is facing a non-bailable offense of electoral sabotage, as well as plunder charges before the Ombudsman and the justice department.
Aquino explained that his government made the offer to prove that his administration is not violating Arroyo’s right to proper medical attention.
“We recognize Mrs. Arroyo’s right to personally choose the specialists who can treat her. We can invite specialists or physicians from any part of the world to perform her needed medical examination,” he said. He said that if it’s necessary, the government will shoulder the expenses for Macapagal-Arroyo’s treatment.
“We want to make sure that the accused would be made to face the courts and make justice prevail in the country. This is why we are doing this,” he said.
The Philippine Medical Association has already said hospitals in the country are more than capable of conducting the bone biopsy the ex-president said she needed.
Bayan said both proposals made by Aquino are problematic.
“These proposals stem from the government’s apparent inability to file cases in court against the former president. The latest proposal that the government will shoulder Arroyo’s doctor’s travel expenses is unwarranted and should be withdrawn,” Reyes said. He noted that many lawmakers have assailed the dangerous implications of a DOJ order which prevents persons from leaving the country even without a court case filed against them or even without a hold-departure order issued by a court.
The Aquino government now faces a petition by the Arroyo camp before the Supreme Court on this matter.
“In the event that government loses the SC case and Macapagal-Arroyo is allowed to travel, this government will suffer a big embarrassment and efforts to make her accountable may suffer a setback. Had a case been filed against Macapagal-Arroyo and a court order been secured, we wouldn’t be in this precarious position. Of course we want to see her held accountable, but the Aquino government seems to be only creating one problem after another,” Reyes said.
The Bayan leader said it would also be better for the government to withdraw its offer of paying for Macapagal-Arroyo’s foreign doctors, saying that it sends the wrong message.
“There are other things government should be paying for. There are a lot of other patients needing financial support, but not the former president,” he insisted.
Bipolar health system
Gabriela Women’s Party lawmaker Emmi De Jesus for her part said the entire issue exposes the “bipolar character”of the Philippine health system.
“The private health system boasts of highly skilled specialists who can treat most health conditions, so long as the patient has unlimited resources to pay for it, let alone a former executive accused of amassing so much wealth from the national coffers. Behind this picture is the starkly contrasting public health system that is gasping for breath, leaving poor women and children dying from preventable diseases,” DeJesus pointed out.
“The dying Philippine public health sector is a result of government’s repeated budget cuts and continued privatization policy. All these budget cuts have resulted to high health costs for poor patients. This is a poor reflection on a government that has reneged on its responsibility to give priority to the health needs of the underprivileged, the elderly, disabled, women, and children. Neither has it put meat in its word that it will strive to provide free medical care for the poor as mandated by the Philippine Constitution,” she said.