x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Arroyo under arrest

The former president of the Philippines, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, is in hot water again. But a witch-hunt does no one any good.

'Hello Garci? So, will I still lead by more than one million?" Most Filipinos, even supporters of the former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, will remember that phone conversation, which took place before the 2004 elections. It appeared to record the then-president asking for a guarantee of votes from an elections commissioner, Virgilio "Garci" Garcillano. The subsequent political fallout, commonly known as the "Hello Garci" scandal, was another black mark on Philippine politics that have often been accused of involving fraud.

Mrs Arroyo now faces charges for rigging a different election, the 2007 parliamentary ballot, as well as a civil suit in connection with the Maguindanao political massacre of 57 civilians in 2009. The former president is also hospitalised with a rare bone disease.

President Benigno Aquino, who succeeded Mrs Arroyo in 2010, has called the prosecution the first step in a systematic campaign against political corruption. To his credit, Mr Aquino has also insisted that his predecessor is innocent until proven guilty.

For the time being, Manila has been relatively quiet, with the military apparently content to let the justice system deal with the case. Perhaps the Philippines finally has turned a page on political corruption and military interference. But for that to be true, Mrs Arroyo must be tried in a fair and transparent manner, not subjected to a witch-hunt.