By Raïssa Robles
Politics in the Philippines is always like a teleserye: One moment you’re up, the next moment you’re down.
Like the former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Her bail today triggers immense possibilities for political mischief and could bring the 2013 polls to an early boil.
Arroyo has seemingly lost most of her powerful political allies like Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia of Cebu, the Zubiris of Mindanao and the Magsaysays of central Luzon, who have all joined forces with Vice-President Jejomar Binay’s UNA coalition. I use the word “seemingly” because what may be happening is that they may all continue to be her allies.
Arroyo has a lot riding on the elections next year. For starters, she intends to keep her seat in Congress and her Pampanga constituents may vote her on for sentimental and financial reasons. For her two congressman-sons, though, it will be their first time to wage political battle without the help of presidential pork. This will be interesting to watch.
Arroyo is not just fighting for her political life; she is fighting for her physical liberty. All she may really need to do is simply delay her plunder cases beyond the remaining four years of President Benigno Aquino’s term. That’s pretty much standard procedure in this country, so it shouldn’t be hard to do .
Aquino finishes his presidency in 2016 and by the following year, Arroyo will turn 70 years old. And voila! Even if she is convicted, her allies may petition the next president to grant her executive clemency because she is old and sick and a woman and a former head of state.
Arroyo can also look forward to the Imelda Marcos treatment. After over two decades of fending off criminal lawsuits, only one reached trial stage, for which Marcos was convicted. But when a new Philippine president came to power, the new government “lost” her case on appeal before the Supreme Court.
No senior politician above the level of congressman has ever served an actual jail sentence in a prison cell in this country. Those who did, like Romeo Jalosjos, turned out to have a special hut built inside the prison compound.
But we can assume that Arroyo would not want to get convicted at all. And that means using all the means at her disposal: calling in past favors, making her former B+ average student, Aquino, look bad, and other tricks we can only begin to guess at.
Any time now, though, a new warrant of arrest is bound to be served on Arroyo for her plunder case concerning the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO). As well as for other cases still being investigated. Will she go quietly the second time around? Will she petition the Supreme Court to lift the hold departure order against her issued by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on grounds of humanity and precarious health?
Or will the Sandiganbayan itself allow her to travel abroad as it allowed ex-President Joseph Estrada while on trial?
All I know is that in Philippine politics, there’s no such thing as “impossible.” And that’s why I posted this afternoon on the social networking site Twitter when I heard that Arroyo was granted bail – It’s more fun being a journo in the Philippines.