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Gloria Arroyo case; The Innocence Project

Easter Sunday marked the 68th birthday former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, spent quietly with her family at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center where she continues to be under hospital arrest. Notwithstanding the fact that many of the cases filed against the former president have been dismissed, among them plunder and graft cases like the diversion of Overseas Workers Welfare Administration funds to Philhealth, the fertilizer fund scam (Joc-joc joke!) and a couple more plunder and graft charges, it’s fairly evident even to the most dimwitted person on this planet that Arroyo will not be allowed to go on bail or even be placed under house arrest as long as BS Aquino is president.

Former representative Mikey Arroyo’s accusation about the BS Aquino administration politicizing his mother’s case is not very farfetched because FPGMA is a convenient target whenever the president’s approval ratings popularity ratings nosedive, with the recent results from the Social Weather Stations showing an all-time low of 11 percent for his net satisfaction rating, registering a hefty drop of 28 percent from December where he obtained a 39 percent net satisfaction rating. Of course, the president and his loyal mouthpieces can always blame the media for his tanking numbers and castigate members of the press for reporting about the Mamasapano massacre, making a big deal out of his “no-show” during the arrival honors for the Fallen 44, etc. etc.

An online article from The Filipino Scribe put it very well when it asked, “Gloria Arroyo remains detained, but where’s the smoking gun?” The article puts into context recalls the electoral sabotage case that was first used to put her under detention, which has nothing to do with the protest filed by the camp of the late “Da King” Fernando Poe Jr. for the 2004 presidential elections, but of conniving with then Maguindanao governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. to rig the 2007 senatorial election results to make (Arroyo) administration candidate Migz Zubiri win. 

The judge handling the case granted bail to Arroyo in 2012 due to weak evidence, and this decision was upheld by the Court of Appeals recently, saying that evidence of guilt is not strong which makes the grant of bail a matter of right. Naturally, the BS Aquino administration will keep on finding ways to ensure that the former president, obviously ill judging from her photos showing her with a Miami J collar, will stay under hospital arrest. We seriously doubt if Amal Alamuddin Clooney will be able to do much anything to improve the circumstances of her client. Even if the UN decides in Arroyo’s favor, the government is not compelled to follow, if our information is correct.

At the rate things are going, Mrs. Arroyo will most likely not see her wish to be out of hospital arrest next Easter. It’s little consolation of course that her condition in detention is much better than other prisoners who are languishing in jail, too poor to afford a lawyer even if they are truly innocent of the crimes they are accused of committing. What’s even worse is when they were merely fall guys, victimized by prosecutors or policemen looking for some patsy to pin the blame on.

Imagine spending the most productive years of your life in prison despite being innocent—and then suddenly told you’re free after decades in prison? In the US, The Innocence Project was started to reform the criminal justice system and prevent future injustice. The objective primarily is to exonerate individuals who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes through DNA testing. Last month, a man who spent almost 20 years in prison for abduction and rape was finally freed following new DNA testing on evidence that proved he was not the one of the two men who committed the crimes (based on bodily fluids collected as evidence). Had this new evidence not been submitted, the man would have spent 55 years in jail for the crime of rape that he had not committed.

What’s disturbing about it is the discovery that the former State Attorney had a track record of wrongful convictions, with his men gaining notoriety for disregarding DNA evidence. One of them even said, “The taxpayers don’t pay us for intellectual curiosity. They pay us to get convictions.” One of the prisoners who was eventually freed and declared innocent of the crime of raping and murdering an 11-year-old girl sued the state and won $20 million for the 20 years he spent in prison. But as the guy said, he still would prefer the 20 years back instead of the money.

Here at home though, we haven’t heard of any restitution made for wrongful convictions and unjust detention, like this woman who spent 18 years in prison for committing the crime of vagrancy, which should have merited only 30 days in jail. What a bummer.

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