27 July 2018
The skies have grown dim: former president now Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s speakership ominous, as a climate of impunity and wide-spread human rights violations grip the nation
The Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (Ecuvoice) is dumbfounded that a woman who became notorious for graft and corruption, election scandal, and massive human rights violations has now been installed as Speaker of the House of Representatives. As an alliance that was formed to bring to the international community the grave human rights crisis during the Arroyo regime—most notably by launching a “Stop the Killings” campaign that quickly mustered a special US Senate hearing on Human Rights in the Philippines initiated by Senator Barbara Boxer in 2007, Ecuvoice raises our unequivocal protest to the startling advancement of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s return to power.
During the nine-year presidency of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, 1,206 victims of extrajudicial killing, 206 victims of enforced disappearances, more than 2,000 cases of illegal arrests, and thousands of victims forcibly evacuation were documented by Ecuvoice member Karapatan. The attacks on activists, farmers, workers, and indigenous peoples were unrelentingly vicious and brutal; among the victims of extra-judicial killing were 30 Church leaders, including one Bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente.
After posturing “illness” to escape lock-up inside a prison facility, Arroyo’s health and strength has been mystically restored once her legal henchman secured her acquittal on corruption charges against her. By all indications, her ravenous hunger for power has never been satiated: she is, once again, pushing for Charter Change and the possible post of Prime Minister that she had coveted in her own presidential push for charter change.
As the Arroyo administration violated every article of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the perpetrators of human rights violations were never held accountable. The rampant disappearances, assassinations, and riding-in-tandem, death-squad hits cultivated a deep-seated culture and climate of impunity, which continues to plague our nation. Gloria Arroyo has shown herself as disturbingly resilient as a weaseling politician, who maneuvers through the political landscape to land herself back in power.
The 1987 Constitution limited the country’s president to one term of six years, and even as Gloria Arroyo managed to stay in the office for 9 years, she only demonstrated the wisdom of the charter’s drafters in showing that a sitting president can cheat their way into a second term. As both crony capitalism and patronage politics are clearly still driving forces in our nation, Gloria Arroyo’s re-ascent to positions of power lay bare that our country is heading toward trouble with a resurgence of recycled leaders who have already abused their power and continue to extend every effort to perpetuate impunity in the Philippines.
For all that is Filipino and the future of our children’s children, we stand for the respect of human rights and insist that we must dare to break the cycle of the recurring harassment, killings, displacements, violations of civil and political rights, and the climate of impunity which they foster.
We say NO to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s return to increased power by grabbing the position of Speaker of the House. Her record as a public servant is both dismal and disturbing. The last thing our nation needs is the former president who presided over rampant killings to re-ascend to leadership. As long as such power-grabs are business-as-usual, the ordinary people will continue to suffer and impunity will prevail. #
Rt. Rev. Rex RB Reyes, Jr., D.D.
Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines
3rd Floor, National Council of Church in the Philippines