A tale of two Arroyos

Neither a tall tale, to be sure, but tale in the sense of saga, a story of very different proportions. Diokno, Arroyo, Binay, Saguisag, Garchitorena—these were some of the lawyers’ names that stood out in the struggle for the full restoration of civil liberties. Yes, no matter how much maligned now, Binay was in the front lines, and so was Garchitorena, forced to retire from the judiciary and hounded virtually to the end of his life by the pettiness of the inferior! After Cory Aquino had been sworn in at Club Filipino, and the task of governing started in earnest, there was good reason to be worried because, truth to tell, she was not prepared for the job. Whatever paeans the starry-eyed may sing about honesty and a good heart being enough, experience in the art of politics and in the science of governance matters, as does its absence.

Joker Arroyo was soon in the public eye. He was “the little president”, the eminence grise —although diminutive, both in height and in deportment, not one to hog the limelight, but certainly one who could be counted on and was in fact counted on. And when cracks in the coalition that had propelled Cory to the presidency made their ugly appearance, and Joker Arroyo was reckoned too far left for comfort, he was sacrificed in placation.But there was never a whimper of protest from him, nor any dour comment about the President he had served but who had dumped him.

“We cannot have a thief for a president,” Joker thundered as House Manager at the impeachment trial of President Joseph Estrada. He was not a great orator, but he was a good lawyer and his straightforward, no frills language, bereft of legalese, rang through with sincerity.  It did, throughout his career.  When PNoy and his gang took over Malacañang, he could have proffered sound advice, but he was not in the loop. It soon became apparent that the new government was sorely lacking in the wisdom that had marked happier days.

Joker Arroyo was once more heard complaining that it was a student government that had taken over the reins of national government. It was a sterling moment of statesmanship as well as of exemplary fidelity to his oath as a lawyer when he stood on the floor on the Senate, after listening to the evidence at the Corona Impeachment Trial and, in the midst of paid hacks, pronounced his verdict not only on the Chief Justice in the dock but also on his colleagues.  This, he announced in no uncertain terms, was unconscionable injustice, a travesty of law.  He now occupies his rightful place in the pantheon of our nation’s immortals!

The other Arroyo—Gloria Macapagal Arroyo—was vilified mercilessly by media and civil society groups with sinister agenda, one that, ominously, is once more threatening national life. Her sterling academic qualifications notwithstanding, as well as her impressive record as a senator of the Republic, every possible charge was hurled in her direction. But that the vicious attacks were really hardly anything more than an ill-concealed attempt to wrest power by sectors posturing as kingmakers is clearly evidenced by the fact that none of the charges against her has thus far prospered; in fact, many have been dismissed and the evidence thus far presented in the cases remaining highlights the rush to indict despite the paucity of grounds and warrant. More telling even is the fact that we have been told by reports that UN agencies have weighed in, characterizing as a gross violation of international law and an egregious trespass of human rights her continued detention.      

If Amal Clooney, an American human rights lawyer of definitely far superior intellectual capabilities than most who joined the mob that lusted for vengeance, bothered to take up the cudgels for Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the most plausible explanation is that Clooney saw in this second Arroyo a true victim of vengeance, one whose human rights have counted for very little!

The nation is impoverished by Joker’s passing—for no more shall we hear his counsel and his chastisement.  And it is none the better off by the continued travesty of detaining Gloria, especially because this offense puts on the farcical appearance of justice.

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