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Reversals of fortune: Gloria Arroyo and Joseph Estrada

The nation today marks the 27th anniversary of the 1986 EDSA People Power protests that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos. And since the current president is the scion of the family that benefited the most from EDSA 1986, the government of President Benigno Aquino III as well as the media will again surely lavish attention on this event (especially since 2013 is an election year).

This stands in clear opposite in the way the 12th anniversary of the 2001 EDSA People Power protests last month was treated by nearly everyone. The best way to illustrate how things have turned out in the twelve years since  EDSA 2001 is by looking at the lives of the two leading dramatis personae’s in the event – Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

On January 20, 2001, Arroyo took the oath of office as the 14th president of the Philippines with then-Chief Justice Hilario Davide. Though he physically vacated the Malacanang Palace aboard a barge that took him to his San Juan residence, Estrada insisted that he never resigned his post.

In a ruling promulgated six weeks after EDSA 2001, the Supreme Court stated that Estrada “constructively resigned” his post because of his statements and actions on that fateful day. Arroyo served out the final three years of Estrada’s term before winning another six-year mandate by beating Estrada’s bosom buddy, actor Fernando Poe Jr., in the 2004 presidential elections.

edsa 2001

EDSA People Power 2001 (Credits:

Estrada was found guilty of plunder by the Sandiganbayan in 2007, and was ultimately granted pardon by Arroyo a month after. Despite his legal woes, Estrada was able to flex his political muscles in all the national elections that followed his 2001 ouster. For some reason, his “Erap para sa mahirap” stuck. And better yet for Estrada, those who played a major role in EDSA 2001 openly expressed regret years later over how things eventually played out just like now-deceased former President Corazon Aquino.

Arroyo for her part retained slightly positive approval ratings in her first three years in office. Things took a turn for the worse in 2005, when the “Hello, Garci” scandal broke out. The following years didn’t get any better for the nation’s second woman president as allegations of massive corruption (NBN-ZTE deal, fertilizer fund scam, etc.) seriously challenged her administration. And as repeated in the media time and again, Arroyo left office in 2010 with the dubious distinction of being the country’s most unpopular president.

The reversal in the fate of Arroyo and Estrada is very evident in this election year. Following his surprise second place finish in the 2010 presidential race, Estrada is now challenging incumbent Alfredo Lim to be the mayor of the City of Manila.

Estrada is also one of the so-called “three kings” of the United Nationalist Alliance, the loosely-knit coalition challenging Liberal Party in the 2013 midterm polls. And because of his alliance with Vice President and 2016 presidential aspirant Jejomar Binay, his son Senator Jinggoy might be tapped as the latter’s running mate. Ergo, Estrada’s influence in Philippine politics may be felt for another decade or so.

gwen garcia jejomar binay joseph estrada

Vice President Jejomar Binay, former President Joseph Estrada, and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile went to Cebu to show their support for Cebu Gov. Garcia (photo by Mike Acebedo Lopez)

If Estrada can take pride in being a kingmaker in all the national elections the past 15 years, the same cannot be said with Arroyo. One indicator of Arroyo’s enduring unpopularity is the fact that politicians, even from her own party, are reluctant to be associated with her.

In the lead-up to the 2007 midterm elections, current President Aquino, then a three-term representative from Tarlac, remarked: “This election is turning out to be a referendum on the Arroyo presidency and from the looks of it, her candidates are sure losers because of the kiss of death from you-know who.” And the elections validated his observation.

Of the twelve candidates running in the administration coalition that year, only two won. Miguel Zubiri, the initially proclaimed winner, resigned last 2011 amidst allegations of widespread cheating in Maguindanao. Three years ago, not one but two presidential candidates were derailed by perceived association to Arroyo – Gilbert Teodoro, her party’s official nominee, and Manuel Villar, her alleged secret candidate. In a survey last year by Pulse Asia, it was revealed that 82% of the respondents will not support candidates endorsed by Arroyo.

Estrada’s popularity continues to ride high, while Arroyo remains detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center. This is not to say that Estrada’s ouster in 2001 is wrong. Sandiganbayan’s verdict in 2007 proved that the allegations against him are factual. That Estrada was able to nearly win the presidency despite being ousted and convicted of plunder shows that winning perception is already half the battle. Meanwhile, it may take years before the cases against Arroyo get resolved but for now, things are looking good. (To be continued)


My exclusive interview with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo

Disclaimer: Just for laughs!

Gloria Arroyo on a metal halo vest

Mark Madrona: Madam President, marami pong salamat sa pagpapaunlak ninyo sa isang panayam ngayong araw dito sa St. Luke’s Medical Center.

Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo: It’s my pleasure to speak to you. Alam mo naman, dominado ng mga kaalyado ni Noynoy Aquino ang media kahit nung kampanya pa.

MM: Madam, ano pong masasabi nyo sa pahayag ni Ricky Carandang na “your day in court has arrived”?

GMA: Well, yes, it did arrive. But it was a year and a half in the making! Estrada was detained just four months after leaving office, mind you.

MM: Mam, according to Atty. Raul Lambino (her legal spokesman) and Ms Elena Bautista-Horn, the charges against you was railroaded.

GMA: Obvious ba? Nagkaroon ng COMELEC resolution, pagsasampa ng kaso, at pag-issue ng arrest warrant in less than six hours! Daig pa nito ang MRT. It’s like the shinkansen!

MM: Madam, balikan lang po muna natin muna yung request ninyo to travel abroad for medical treatment.

GMA: Yes, salamat. Actually, nalilito na rin ako kung ano ba talaga ang sakit ko. Sabi kasi dati, pinched nerve daw. Nung inoperahan ako, biglang nagkaroon ng hypoparathyroidism. Ang sakit sa leeg. I can no longer move freely. Nasasaktan ako! As I said, not knowing what ails me is killing me.

GMA: "Nung inoperahan ako, biglang nagkaroon ng hypoparathyroidism. Ang sakit sa leeg. I can no longer move freely."

MM: Pero hindi po kayo pinayagan ni DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima na bumiyahe.

GMA: Oo. I’m sure nabasa mo naman yung resolution nya. Kesyo indefinite daw ang pagbabalik ko tapos, ang pinili ko pang mga bansa, yung walang extradition treaty sa Pilipinas. Well, that’s not my fault kung sa walong bansa lang tayo mayroong ganun.

MM: Totoo po bang hindi na kayo babalik?

GMA: Babalik naman ako … kung hindi na si Noynoy ang pangulo.

MM: Paano po kung si Binay o Roxas ang pumalit sa kanya?

GMA: Well, let me put it this way. It took 25 years before ousted Haitian leader Baby Doc Duvalier returned. I can also do that.

MM: I see, Madam. Are you aware of reports that Thaksin Shinawatra would be returning to Thailand within the next few months?

GMA: Yes, of course He’s my friend. Ang suwerte nga nya kasi yung kapatid na nyang si Yingluck ang Prime Minister ngayon dun. I can’t do that here. Seriously, can anyone among Mike, Mikey, Dato, Luli, and Iggy become President, too?

MM: Any message po for Leila de Lima?

GMA on Leila De Lima: "I truly regret appointing you (as CHR Chair in 2008)."

GMA: Alam mo, Leila, baka nakakalimutan mong I was the one who appointed you as Commission on Human Rights Chair nung 2008, kahit na lawyer ka pa ng Genuine Opposition nung 2007! Sisikat ka ba if not for that appointment? And please, don’t use me for your 2013 senatorial candidacy. I truly regret appointing you.

MM: Madam, sabi po ni Health Secretary Enrique Ona, you are recuperating “reasonably well” after undergoing three successive surgeries.

GMA: Drinking medicines makes me choke. My blood pressure is beyond normal. I have lost my appetite. I am 10 pounds lighter now. I am experiencing finger numbness and leg cramps. Does that mean I’m recuperating well?

MM: Pictures of you wearing a metal halo vest has been widely circulated.

Will the ailing Gloria Arroyo spend the coming holiday season under hospital arrest?

GMA: Actually, I asked my lawyer Estelito Mendoza if that is still necessary. E the Supreme Court sided naman with us, so I guess it worked.

MM: Madam, many are asking … was that taken using a webcam?

GMA: Hahaha. Yes. We can’t use a Canon or a Nikon. You see, I have to be seen in the worst possible light. Para mas convincing ‘di ba?

MM: So you are admitting the picture was faked?

GMA: Oops! I am sorry. Please, put that off the record.

MM: Sabi po ni MTRCB Chair Grace Poe-Llamanzares, naniniwala syang hindi na kayo babalik. Ano pong masasabi nyo sa kanya?

GMA: Hija, hindi kita kilala personally, pero tandaan mo, ang sakit ko ay sakit rin ng ina mo. Regards pala sa HALF-sister mong si Lovi.

MM: What about COMELEC Chair Sixto Brilliantes?

GMA: I am very certain that life would be much easier for me if my former lawyer Romulo Macalintal were in his place. Well, Sixto, your wish for us to spend Christmas under arrest seems to be happening.

MM: Madam, what do you think of Chief Justice Renato Corona?

GMA: Hi, Nato! He voted in favor of allowing me to travel abroad not once, but twice last week. Iba na talaga ang may pinagsamahan. Too bad nakauna pa rin ang aking mga kalaban.

MM: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declined to comment po about your case during a forum last Wednesday.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Hillary Clinton at the US State Department (2009)

GMA: Hillary, my friendship with your husband Bill dates back to our days in Georgetown University. He knew me before you. I was actually rooting for you over Obama last 2008.

MM: The foreign minister of the Dominican Republic has denied that you are seeking an asylum there.

GMA: A mis amigos en la República Dominicana. Yo sé que estáis de buena voluntad a ayudarme, pero yo fui impedido por mis enemigos antes de que pudiera pedir vuestra ayuda.*

(To my friends in the Dominican Republic. I know you are willing to help me, but I was stopped by my enemies before I can even ask for your assistance.)

MM: Mam, what do you feel about Len Horn?

GMA: I am touched by her presence. You know, as the song goes, “For good times and bad times, I’ll be on your side forevermore.”

MM: Any message po to your family?

Mike, Mikey, Dato, at Luli, mahal ko kayong lahat. Pagshubok lamang ito at malalagpashan nating lahat. Huwag kayong mawalan ng pag-asha.

MM: What can you say to Joseph Estrada?

Joseph Estrada's mugshot after being arrested for plunder (2001)

GMA: He’s right. Our case is indeed different. Nung nag-request siyang bumiyahe for his knee surgery, mahigit tatlong taon na ang plunder trial nya. Ako, na-reject ang travel request ko kahit wala pang nakasampang kaso against me. Who between us was a convicted plunderer? I regret having pardoned him. Dapat nakakulong pa siya hanggang ngayon, had I not been persuaded by Mike Defensor and Ronaldo Puno. Huwag siyang magmalinis.

MM: What can you say to President Noynoy Aquino?

GMA: He’s a very vindictive man. He’s very keen on persecuting me and my family. Remember, his father was already convicted by a military court of rebellion when his father sought medical treatment abroad.

MM: Madam, last question. How do you see yourself 5-10 years from now?

GMA: I’ll be turning 70 by April 5, 2017. I granted pardon to Estrada because of that. You get it? And of course, I am wishing myself and Mike good health.

MM: Madam, you can now address the entire Filipino nation.

GMA: Mga minamahal kong kababayan, sa siyam na taon na ako’y inyong pangulo, ginawa ko ang lahat ng aking makakaya upang kayo ay mapagshilbihan. Hindi ako nandaya noong 2004, at wala akong inutusang mandaya para kay Miguel Zubiri noong 2007.  Tiwala akong ako’y maaabswelto sa kasong electoral sabotage. Nais ko ring sabihin sa inyo na hindi ako kailanman nagnakaw sa kaban ng bayan. I am certain that the justice system will exonerate me from these baseless allegations. History will vindicate my legacy.

* – special thanks to my Christine Delner Robledo, Dan Daryll Arboleda, and Ron de Vera for helping me out in this translation. 🙂

2011 Thai elections and the Filipinos’ lack of sense of history

Something interesting happening over there in Thailand Thailand will be having a general election this coming Sunday, July 3. This is Thailand’s first nationwide poll since Abhisit Vejjajiva became prime minister in December 2008. I have maintained a particular interest in Thai political affairs for over half a decade now. Thaksin Shinawatra, the Thai leader from 2001 until his ouster by a military coup in 2006 is a familiar name to some Filipinos, and for mixed reasons (as I mentioned in my previous post).


In the clearest indication yet of Thaksin’s enduring political clout, this year, his younger sister, the 44-year-old Yingluck Shinawatra, is the main opponent of Abhisit for the premiership. Pre-election surveys indicate that Yingluck’s party has a good chance of winning enough seats to make her Thailand’s first female prime minister. Unlike the Philippines, Thailand has a parliamentary form of government. The Thai media seems not to regard the fact that a female can actually lead a predominantly Buddhist country as important, or at least not as important as the fact that she is Thaksin’s sister.


Last June 13, Wassana Naunam of the Bangkok Post wrote an interesting news story with the subhead: “Army’s reassurances do little to comfort as Yingluck’s rise suggests Thaksin’s ouster pointless.” Here are some excerpts:

Thaksin's sister Yingluck to face off with Abhisit Vejjajiva for the Thai premiership (credits:

Thaksin's sister Yingluck to face off with Abhisit Vejjajiva for the Thai premiership (credits:


The military staged a coup on Sept 19, 2006 to overthrow Thaksin Shinawatra, Ms Yingluck’s elder brother. If Pheu Thai wins the election and former Prime Minister Thaksin returns to Thailand through an amnesty, the power seizure – in the view of those who engineered it – would be tantamount to a total waste… While several opinion polls show the popularity of Pheu Thai and Ms Yingluck is rising, political observers are keen to see how the military will react. (emphasis mine)


Thais are evidently anxious about the election results. If Abhisit manages to turn the tide to his favor and remain in power, most will probably see this as a repudiation of Thaksin and his allies. A Yingluck premiership promises to be more complicated. As mentioned in the news piece, her win would decisively show that most Thais are still on Thaksin’s side. This would put all of those who helped oust Thaksin in 2006 in an awkward position. All of their efforts to oust, prosecute, and banish Thaksin from the Thai political scene would go down the drain.


Filipinos’ lack of sense of history


I can’t help but compare it to what is happening in the Philippines. Filipinos have ousted two presidents through popular revolts, Ferdinand Marcos (in 1986) and Joseph Estrada (in 2001). But, lo and behold, Filipinos seems to have lost their sense of history. Estrada unsuccessfully sought to regain the presidency in last year’s polls – or less than three years after he was convicted of plunder. Over nine million Filipinos voted for him, ranking 2nd in a field of nine candidates. Nine million people wanted to have a convicted plunderer to be their president? Wow.


Marcos may have died in 1989, but in the years following the 1986 EDSA People Power, Marcos’ relatives had maintained their political power in northern Philippines. Last year, his wife Imelda won as district representative, while his daughter Imee became a provincial governor. Marcos’ son and namesake, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr., for his part won a seat in the Philippine senate. Many are hyping the possibility of him running for president in 2016. Does this mean that the popular revolts of 1986 and 2001 have become “tantamount to a total waste,” too?

Thaksin, President Arroyo, and other Filipino politicians

To me, Thaksin is a composite of three Filipino politicians: former presidents Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Joseph Estrada (a former movie actor), and Senator (and 2010 presidential candidate) Manuel Villar, Jr. Arroyo shares Thaksin’s economic savvy.  Both also faced allegations of corruption, public disenchantment, and military unrest. Thaksin was not able to serve out his term unlike Arroyo, but in comparison to her, he remains a popular among the Thai masses years after being deposed. That’s something he shares with the charismatic Estrada. In his bid to regain the presidency last year, Estrada ranked 2nd in a field of nine candidates. Both Villar and Thaksin are self made billionaires, with Villar making it big in the real estate field. Both had been accused of using their political office to serve their business interests.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arro in a meeting with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

President Gloria Macapagal-Arro in a meeting with Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra

He’s known to have a close relationship with Arroyo, who also assumed power in early 2001, just a few weeks ahead of him. Arroyo liked Thaksin’s economic policies (termed as “Thaksinomics”) so much that she proclaimed herself in 2003 as one of its “disciples” (as reported by Newsweek and Time magazine).   Thaksin believed that “access to capital, employment opportunities, and basic social services can transform disadvantaged regions into growth engines,” and this philosophy has been emulated by a number of Asian leaders, not just Arroyo.


When she sought her own term as president in 2004, one of her challengers, Senator Panfilo Lacson, vowed to be like Thaksin, who he described in a campaign ad as “buo ang loob (courageous), walang takot (fearless).” Both he and Thaksin are former cops known to crack down hard (to the point of excess) on criminals. Thaksin, however, received much criticism from Filipinos when he was quoted to have criticized the way 2005 SEA Games competitions (which the Philippines hosted that year) are being officiated. Arroyo gave Thaksin’s insinuations a semblance of credence when she ordered an official investigation into the matter instead of defending the Filipino athlete’s excellent performance.


The following year, the sale of Thaksin’s telecommunication conglomerate to a Singaporean firm (where he supposedly earned billions) triggered a political firestorm. After months of protests and much dillydallying on Thaksin’s side (on whether he will resign or not), the military launched a September 2006 coup that ultimately ousted him. Though Thaksin has been out of Thailand since then (except for a brief period in 2008), he remains a force to reckon with there. Within two years after the coup, two of his political allies served as prime minister, though they were both eventually forced out of office.

Kabayan Noli’s daughter reacted to what I posted in Facebook yesterday

The daughter of the Philippine’s immediate former vice president (and currently national news anchor) reacted to what I wrote in Facebook! Quite a surprise, I must say. Here’s the story behind it: Last Monday, there was a report in TV Patrol about the renewal of wedding vows (after 40 years of being married) between Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and her husband Narciso Santiago, a former Interior Undersecretary.

"Magagalit ang DENR dyan. Puro plastic!" - Kabayang Noli (reacting to those who attended Miriam Santiago's 40th wedding anniversary)

"Magagalit ang DENR dyan. Puro plastic!" - Kabayang Noli (reacting to those who attended Miriam Santiago's 40th wedding anniversary)

Of particular interest to many is the fact that this particular event was able to bring together a wide array of personalities in the fields of politics, media, and even media. Guests include former presidents Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, as well as Benigno Aquino III. As pointed out by many news reports, these personalities are not exactly in good terms with one another. Just after the news report (by Jorge Carino), Noli de Castro was caught on camera quipping: “Galit ang DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) dyan! Maraming plastic.” I watched it live, and I am not sure if Kabayan is aware that the camera is already focused to him when he said that. This was done not at the end of the program, but just before he introduced another story.

Last night, I noted in Facebook that though a lot of news anchors here in the Philippines are known for making side comments like Korina Sanchez, Mike Enriquez, and Erwin Tulfo, I still believe that they should at least project a semblance of neutrality on what they report on. I know that is a long shot. How can that be when some of our newscasters are doing double-duties as opinion writers (for tabloids, mostly) or radio commentary program hosts? I know all of us have a take on just about anything, but these people are journalists. I added that though I agree with what Kabayan blurted out (yes, I find it really funny!), it is still not right.

Here’s what Miss Katherine De Castro wrote as a comment to my post:

Miss Kat De Castro's comment to my Facebook post about her father's gaffe

Miss Kat De Castro's comment to my Facebook post about her father's gaffe


I am neither a journalism purist nor a media traditionalist. I’ve seen what she is talking about. I remember seeing Katie Couric (former anchor of CBS Evening News in America) one time blurting out “yuck!” after a report on the recommended diet for school children. But, are we watching the news to hear what the anchors have to quip about the stuff they report on? No. But, to be sure, it gives us something to be amused about. 🙂

P.S.: I’m a fan of Kabayan Noli de Castro. I always imitated his PAG-IBIG catchphrase “Bakit ka mangungupahan pa, kung kaya mo naming magkabahay na!” I even had it recorded in my cellphone. I would have voted for him last year had he ran for president!

A hero’s burial for Marcos is a shameless attempt to rewrite history

Over 200 lawmakers in the Philippine Congress have signed House Resolution 1135. Introduced by Sorsogon Rep. Salvador Escudero III, HR 1135 urges President Benigno Aquino III to allow the burial of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos in the Libingan ng mga Bayani (National Heroes’ Cemetery). The essence of the resolution in itself is abhorrent, while the justifications cited in the “whereas” clauses betray either a sheer ignorance of established facts or a shameless attempt to twist history.

Among those who endorsed HR 1135 is former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her sons Mikey and Dato, and brother-in-law Iggy (of Jose Pidal fame). Celebrities-turned-lawmakers Dan Fernandez, Lani Mercado-Revilla, and Lucy Torres-Gomez also backed the said resolution. Naturally, Imelda Marcos signed the move, together with Pangasinan Rep. Kimi Cojuangco (Danding’s daughter-in-law), San Juan Rep. Joseph Victor Ejercito, and Las Piñas Rep. Mark Villar[1]. Ejercito’s father, former President Joseph Estrada, also moved for Marcos’ burial in Libingan ng mga Bayani during his presidency. Meanwhile, Sen. Manny Villar got the Marcoses’ endorsement for his 2010 presidential run.

Till death do us part - Imelda and Ferdinand Marcos style

The resolution commended Marcos for being “a well-decorated soldier, a veteran of World War II, and a survivor of the Bataan Death March.” Official U.S Army records have quelled his tale of leading a guerilla unit named Ang Mga Maharlika as early as late 1940s. One of those who unearthed this damaging fact (as far as Marcos is concerned) is American historian Alfred McCoy from the University of Wisconsin. He detailed his research in the book Closer than Brothers. His findings were reported by New York Times in 1986. The front-page story was released merely two weeks before that year’s snap presidential elections between Marcos and Corazon Aquino. Some excerpts[2]:

Throughout his political career, Mr. Marcos, now President of the Philippines, has portrayed himself as a heroic guerrilla leader, and the image has been central to his political appeal… Documents that had rested out of public view in United States Government archives for 35 years show that repeated Army investigations found no foundation for Mr. Marcos’s claims that he led a guerrilla force called Ang Mga Maharlika in military operations against Japanese forces from 1942 to 1944.”

HR 1135 noted that Marcos “built the modern foundations of the Philippines” as its “longest serving president.” “He was responsible for the construction of vast infrastructure, the utilization of our energy sources, and the strengthening of local governments.” No mention of the fact that these projects (e.g. the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant) were financed by foreign institutions like World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and that the bulk of these were pocketed by who else? In 2004, Transparency International ranked Marcos as the 2nd most corrupt leader in the world, next only to Indonesia’s Suharto[3]. His loot was pegged at $10 billion. In fact, a government body was created to try to recover the Marcoses’ ill-gotten wealth.

“It can never be gainsaid that Ferdinand Marcos gave invaluable service to his country as soldier, writer, statesman, President, and commander-in-chief.” The effects of the Marcos dictatorship in many aspects of the Philippine society has been studied extensively the past decades by a wide array of scholars, journalists, political scientists, historians and many others. A cursory view of these would reveal a legacy of failure. I am not a big fan of the current president, I did not even vote for him. However, we cannot just allow this blatant attempt to sugarcoat reality.

On the entrance of the Libingan ng mga Bayani, it is written: “I do not know the dignity of his birth, but I do know the glory of his death.”  What is glorious in having 3,257 killed, 35,000 tortured, and 70,000 political dissidents incarcerated under your administration[4]?

[1] ______________. Does your representative approve of Marcos’ burial in Libingan? ABS-CBN News Online. Accessed March 29, 2011.

[2] Gerth, Jeff and Brinkley, J. Marcos Wartime Role Discredited in U.S. Files. New York Times Online.

[3] _____________. Suharto tops corruption rankings. BBC News Online.  Article dated March 25
, 2004.

[4] McCoy, Alfred. Dark legacy: Human rights under the Marcos regime. World History Archives. Accessed April 15, 2011.

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