History repeats itself, 10 years after Estrada's fall

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 November, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 November, 2011, 12:00am


In an ironic twist of history, former Philippine president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was brought to book the same way her predecessor was - for breaking a law she herself supported.

On Friday evening, Arroyo was arrested in her Manila hospital suite for the non-bailable crime of electoral sabotage, specified in a law she as president enacted in 2007. If convicted, she faces life imprisonment.

Ten years ago the man she had replaced, deposed president Joseph Estrada (pictured), was arrested for the non-bailable crime of plunder, set out in a law he had voted for when he was a senator. After a six-year trial, he was convicted in 2007 and sentenced to up to 40 years' imprisonment - but he was pardoned 43 days later by president Arroyo.

Upon hearing of Arroyo's arrest, Estrada said it was karma, adding that she should be treated the same way he was. When he was arrested Estrada was taken from his mansion, detained at the national police headquarters, transferred to a government hospital and later confined to his own vacation house just outside Manila. Shortly after his arrest his mugshots were leaked to the press.

On Saturday, Arroyo's lawyer pleaded with police not to release her mugshots to the public.

'Please don't shame her,' lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said. 'We appeal to everyone's sense of discretion and decency.'

During his trial, Estrada repeatedly said he was sick, asking for hospital confinement. Arroyo is similarly asking for 'hospital arrest', claiming various ailments.

There are other eerie similarities. Both cases see a former president charged with a major crime. Both when in power touted themselves as staunch foes of corruption.

The biggest similarity - and irony - is that Arroyo's nine-year presidency turned out to be even more scandal-racked and tumultuous than that of Estrada's, who was ousted in 2001 in a massive street uprising. There had been outrage over his administration's corruption.

Arroyo had been expected to clean up her predecessor's mess and usher in clean government. Instead her administration was marked by one corruption scandal after another.

Arroyo was arrested a few days after she had tried leaving the country, ostensibly to see doctors for a 'life-threatening' disability. Critics wondered why her itinerary would bring her to five countries, none of which had extradition treaties with the Philippines.