Arroyo leads House allies in 'unequivocal defense' of Duterte, 'drug war'

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
Arroyo leads House allies in 'unequivocal defense' of Duterte, 'drug war'
President Rodrigo Duterte and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo share a light moment during a courtesy visit in Malacañang on November 28, 2016.
Presidential photo / King Rodriguez

MANILA, Philippines — Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (Pampanga) — president of the Philippines from 2001 to 2010 — has led the filing of a House resolution defending former President Rodrigo Duterte, who is facing an investigation at the International Criminal Court over his controversial and bloody "war on drugs".

Arroyo, also senior deputy speaker, urged House lawmakers on Thursday to adopt the resolution and declare their "unequivocal defense" of former president Rodrigo Duterte. Adopted resolutions express the chamber's position but do not have the force of law.

ICC prosecutors were authorized on January 26 to resume their probe into the alleged crimes against humanity in the "war on drugs." Relatives of victims of extrajudicial killings say would finally clear the path for justice.

House Resolution No. 780 lists the following as co-authors:

  • Reps. Carmelo Lazatin, Jr. (Pampanga)
  • Aurelio Gonzales (Pampanga)
  • Anna York Bondoc-Sagum (Pampanga)
  • Jose Alvarez (Palawan)
  • Mary Mitzi Cajayon-Uy (Caloocan City)
  • Richard Gomez (Leyte)
  • Wilton Kho (Masbate)
  • Loreto Amante (Laguna)
  • Edward Hagedorn (Palawan)
  • Edwin Olivarez (Parañaque)
  • Eric Martinez (Valenzuela)
  • Eduardo Rama, Jr. (Cebu City)
  • Dale Corvera (Agusan del Norte)
  •  Zaldy Villa (Siquijor)
  • Ma. Rene Ann Lourdes Matibag (Laguna)
  • Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo (Lanao del Norte)
  • Johnny Pimentel (Surigao del Sur)
  • Marilyn Primicias-Agabas (Pangasinan)

In a press release on HR 780, Arroyo brought up past charges against her that she called "politically-motivate" and "trumped-up" as reasons she is "keen on ensuring that justice is meted out fairly to everyone as she too was once a victim of unfair investigation and prosecution during the time of then-President Noynoy Aquino, her immediate successor."

The Office of the Ombudsman in 2019 signed off on the decision to dismiss the last plunder complaint filed against Macapagal-Arroyo over the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds for lack of evidence.

The press release from Arroyo’s camp also cited the Supreme Court’s decision to dismiss in July 2016 a separate PCSO plunder case against her, "ruling that the Sandiganbayan ‘committed grave abuse of discretion when it denied their respective demurrers to the evidence.’"

Arroyo justifies Duterte’s drug war  

In defense of Duterte, the resolution argued that the "remarkable accomplishments brought about by (Duterte’s) relentless campaign against illegal drugs, insurgency, separatism and terrorism, corruption in government and criminality made the life of Filipinos better, comfortable and peaceful."

It also added that there was a "need for immediate action to curb the country’s serious and rampant illegal drug situation at the time when Duterte took office."

The House resolution also cited a supposed "unprecedented growth in exports and investment," which it argued resulted from Duterte’s strong push to “end insurgency and curb the drug menace in the country.”

The House resolution stuck to the Philippine government’s defense of having its own "functioning and independent"judicial system". The office of the ICC prosecutor has pointed out that domestic proceedings have only managed the prosecution and conviction of low-ranking officials.

RELATED: ICC notes domestic PHL proceedings only concern low-ranking perpetrators

No bearing

The resolution "has no bearing at all" on the ICC probe, said Carlos Conde, a senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.

"They’re merely circling the wagon. But it’s immaterial as far as the resumption of investigation goes," Conde added.

Conde said that the only way the Philippine government could head off an investigation by the international court was to "demonstrate that it was willing and able to deliver justice for victims of the drug war."

"The government was given the opportunity to show that its justice system was working enough to make the ICC superfluous. The Pre-Trial Chamber came to the conclusion that it failed," Conde added.

What the resolution has achieved, according to the human rights alliance Karapatan, was to "insult …  thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings and their families — citizens of this country who suffered inhuman treatment from a murderous regime."

"Let it be noted that initiators of this resolution are among those in government who cheered on Duterte and are now seemingly aiding him in evading accountability — while poor Filipinos were summarily killed," Karapatan said in a statement.  

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