MANILA, JUNE 3, 2013 (PHILSTAR) EDITORIAL - Reforming the judiciary is a work in progress. This is according to the man whose unprecedented ouster as chief justice a year ago was supposed to pave the way for judicial reforms.

Renato Corona (photo right below) said he had moved on since his removal from office on May 30 last year following an impeachment trial. Now facing formal charges for tax evasion and lying about his assets, Corona maintains his innocence.

His removal over inaccuracies in his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth apparently inspired more detailed asset declarations for 2012 from many public servants.

There is also closer scrutiny of SALNs filed in recent years by lawmakers, with graft charges being brought against those seen to have lied in the official documents.

Rules on public disclosure of the assets of Supreme Court justices and magistrates of lower courts, however, have hardly been eased. Opaqueness has characterized SC finances for a long time, and the magistrates, it seems, still prefer to keep it that way.

Apart from the lack of fiscal transparency, the Philippine judicial system has retained its reputation for unpredictability and vulnerability to political influence.

The weak rule of law and uncertainty in the adjudication of business and other economic cases have been among the major complaints of foreign investors.

Of particular concern for them are court restraining orders issued arbitrarily or, it is perceived, sometimes for the right price. Social injustice arising from compromised magistrates also continues to drive people into the arms of insurgent and bandit groups, with the impoverished the most vulnerable to rebel recruitment.

The most common complaint against the judiciary is the glacial pace of the administration of justice. This problem has been around for decades and changing the system will take more than the removal of a chief justice.

But the ouster of Corona raised expectations for judicial reforms. Filipinos are waiting for a discernible improvement.


Arroyo vows better service in 2nd term in Congress Philippine Daily Inquirer 11:27 pm | Saturday, May 18th, 2013 3 56 8 CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Elected for a second term, Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Friday promised to deliver more services to her constituents in the province’s second district despite her weak health and detention on plunder charges.

“You have always served as my inspiration to do more in my work as your representative. I assure you that I shall prioritize legislative measures for your progress and welfare,” the former President said in a statement in Kapampangan. Copies of her statement were distributed after the provincial board of canvassers proclaimed her winner.

It was her first statement to residents in the second district since her visit on July 27, 2012, or two days after a judge allowed her to post bail for an electoral sabotage case.

She was again detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) in Quezon City in October last year for alleged misuse of P325 million in intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

She has not left VMMC to file her certificate of candidacy, not even to campaign, cast her vote or attend her proclamation.

Paul Maglalang, her counsel, stood in for her at the proclamation ceremony on Thursday at Benigno Aquino Hall here.

Certificates of canvass received by the provincial board of canvassers from the towns of Guagua, Lubao, Sasmuan, Sta. Rita, Porac and Floridablanca showed Arroyo getting 168,718 votes. Her rival Vivian Dabu of the Liberal Party polled 18,547 votes, Charlie Chua, 2,235 votes, and Lalah Leoncio, 1,462 votes.

Making no references to her health or her legal predicaments, Arroyo said the faith, trust and courage of her second-district constituents helped her cope with each day.

She said her being proclaimed a winner also honored her father, the late President Diosdado Macapagal.

Local officials said she won because of the many projects she funneled to the district when she was President, the sympathy she generated due to her troubles, and the support of Governor Lilia Pineda.

Allocations to her priority development assistance fund amounted to P15 million in 2010, P30.8 million in 2011, P109.2 million in 2012 and P33.6 million in 2013, online data from the Department of Budget and Management showed.

Also proclaimed on Thursday night were Vice Governor-elect Dennis Pineda, Representatives-elect Oscar Rodriguez (third district) and Joseller Guiao (first district) and the winning provincial board members. Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon




Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (born April 5, 1947) is a Filipino politician who served as the 14th President of the Philippines from 2001 to 2010, as the 12th Vice President of the Philippines from 1998 to 2001, and is currently a member of the House of Representatives representing the 2nd District of Pampanga. She was the country's second female president (after Corazón Aquino), and the daughter of former President Diosdado Macapagal.

Arroyo was a former professor of economics at Ateneo de Manila University where Benigno Aquino III was one of her students. She entered government in 1987, serving as assistant secretary and undersecretary of the Department of Trade and Industry upon the invitation of President Corazon Aquino.

After serving as a senator from 1992 to 1998, she was elected to the vice presidency under President Joseph Estrada, despite having run on an opposing ticket. After Estrada was accused of corruption, she resigned her cabinet position as Secretary of Social Welfare and Development and joined the growing opposition to the president, who faced impeachment. Estrada was soon forced from office by the EDSA Revolution of 2001, and Arroyo was sworn into the presidency by Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. on January 20, 2001.

She was elected to a full six-year presidential term in the controversial May 2004 Philippine elections, and was sworn in on June 30, 2004. Following her presidency she was elected to the House of Representatives, making her the second Philippine president—after José P. Laurel—to pursue a lower office after their presidency.

On November 18, 2011, Arroyo was arrested following the filing of criminal charges against her for electoral fraud. As of December 9, 2011, she is incarcerated at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City under charges of electoral sabotage.

Second Term (2004–2010)

2004 Presidential Election rigging allegations

On June 30, 2004, in a break with tradition, Arroyo first delivered her inaugural speech at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila. She then departed for Cebu City for her oath taking, the first time that a Philippine president took the oath of office outside of Luzon.

Allegations of cheating against Arroyo gained momentum one year after the May 2004 elections.

In a press conference held on June 10, 2005, Samuel Ong, former deputy director of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) claimed to have audio recordings of wiretapped conversations between Arroyo and an official of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). Virgilio Garcillano, a former COMELEC commissioner, would later be identified as the official talking to Arroyo.

According to Ong, the recordings allegedly proved that Arroyo ordered the rigging of the national elections for her to win by around one million votes against Poe.

The recordings of Ong became known as the Hello Garci controversy and triggered massive protests against Arroyo. Key members of her cabinet resigned from their respective posts and urged Arroyo to do the same.

On June 27, 2005, Arroyo admitted to inappropriately speaking to a COMELEC official, claiming it was a "lapse in judgement". She, however, denied influencing the outcome of the elections and declared that she won the elections fairly. Arroyo did not resign despite the pressures coming from various sectors of society.

The Hello Garci controversy became the basis of the impeachment case filed against Arroyo in 2005. Attempts to impeach Arroyo failed later that year.

Another impeachment case was filed against Arroyo in 2006 but was also defeated at the House of Representatives.

In October 2007, lawyer Alan Paguia filed an impeachment complaint against Arroyo in connection with the issue of bribery. Paguia's complaint was based on the revelation of Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio that various governors received half a million pesos from Malacañang.

The impeachment case, as of the middle of October 2007, has already been referred to the House of Representatives Committee on Justice.


Arroyo, who earned a master's degree and doctorate in economics, made the Philippine economy the focus of her presidency.

Annual economic growth in the Philippines averaged 4.5% during the Arroyo administration, expanding every quarter of her presidency. This is higher than in the administrations of her three immediate predecessors, Corazon Aquino (3.8%), Fidel Ramos (3.7%), and Joseph Estrada (3.7%).

The Philippine economy grew at its fastest pace in three decades in 2007, with real GDP growth exceeding 7%.

The economy was one of the few to avoid contraction during the 2008 global financial crisis, faring better than its regional peers due to minimal exposure to troubled international securities, lower dependence on exports, relatively resilient domestic consumption, large remittances from four-to five-million overseas Filipino workers, and a growing business process outsourcing industry.

Arroyo's handling of the economy has earned praise from former US President Bill Clinton, who cited her "tough decisions" that put the Philippine economy back in shape.[17] Despite this growth, the poverty rate remained stagnant due to a high population growth rate and uneven distribution of income.

A controversial expanded value added tax (e-VAT) law, considered the centerpiece of the Arroyo administration's economic reform agenda, was implemented in November 2005, aiming to complement revenue-raising efforts that could plug the country's large budget deficit.

Her administration originally set a target to balance the national budget by 2010, t.

The tax measure boosted confidence in the government's fiscal capacity and helped to strengthen the Philippine peso, making it East Asia's best performing currency in 2005–06.

The peso strengthened by nearly 20% in 2007, making it by far Asia's best performing currency for the year, a fact attributed to a combination of increased remittances from overseas Filipino workers and a strong domestic economy.

Early in her presidency, Arroyo implemented a controversial policy of holiday economics, adjusting holidays to form longer weekends with the purpose of boosting domestic tourism and allowing Filipinos more time with their families.


House of Representatives

In November 2009, Arroyo formally declared her intention to run for a seat in the House of Representatives representing the 2nd District of Pampanga, making her the second Philippine President – after José P. Laurel – to pursue a lower office after the expiration of their presidency.

A petition seeking to disqualify Arroyo from the race was dismissed by the Comelec for lack of merit, a decision which was later affirmed by the Supreme Court.

With little serious competition, she was elected to congress in May 2010 with a landslide victory.

After receiving final military honors at the inauguration ceremony of incoming President Benigno Aquino III, she headed straight to Pampanga for her own oath-taking as congresswoman.

Despite being considered the strongest contender for Speaker of the House, Arroyo declined to seek the position, hoping instead to take on a role similar to Sonia Gandhi, who was influential as merely the head of her party.

On her first day as a lawmaker, Arroyo and her son Dato filed a resolution calling for Congress to call a constitutional convention to propose amendments to the existing constitution.

Arroyo successfully earned a second term as congresswoman for Pampanga's second legislative district at the conclusion of the 2013 Philippine mid-term elections on 13 May 2013, defeating the ruling Liberal Party's Vivian Dabu who was the provincial administrator under priest-turned-politician former Governor Among Ed Panlilio.

Hospital arrest

Arroyo was arrested on November 18, 2011 after a Pasay court issued a warrant of arrest against her, following the filing of a complaint for electoral sabotage by the Commission on Elections.

The arrest warrant was served at a St. Luke's Medical Center at Taguig where Arroyo had been confined. Days earlier, the Supreme Court had issued a Resolution enjoining attempts by the Department of Justice to prevent her departure from the Philippines to seek medical treatment overseas.

In early 2011 she was diagnosed with cervical spondylosis or cervical radiculopathy. She was rushed to the St. Luke's Medical Center in Global City Taguig July 25, 2011, minutes after the State of the Nation Address by Benigno Aquino III.

Doctors performed a 5 hour spine surgery on June 29, 2011. Two more surgeries occurred in August 2011 which aggravated her hypoparathyroidism.

The House of Representatives under the leadership of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. issued a travel permit allowing her to have treatment in Germany despite the Department of Justice hold departure order.

She was transferred to the Veterans Memorial Medical Center in Quezon City on December 9, 2011. Arroyo was released from hospital arrest on bail on July 25, 2012.

On October 29, 2012, she refused to enter any plea on charges she misused $8.8 million in state lottery funds during her term in office.



Arroyo, 58, is now fighting to hold on to her job as the opposition party seeks to file impeachment charges against her over a series of scandals, and her attempts to fix Manila's weak finances are falling apart, causing frustrated technocrats to bolt from her government.

After donning the mantle of president in 2001, Arroyo tried to work diligently on her governing platform, which includes the eradication of poverty, which helped her win re-election in 2004.

Nevertheless, despite a growing economy (in 2004, the Philippines economy grew an estimated 6.1%, up from 4.7% in 2003), Arroyo's stewardship has been burdened by a Muslim insurgency and the Philippines' designation as the second most corrupt country in Asia, according to a survey of businessmen conducted by the Hong Kong-based Political and Economic Risk Consultancy.

Arroyo, a former classmate of Bill Clinton's at Georgetown University and a onetime economics professor, is currently under investigation by lawmakers into allegations she cheated to win last year's election (her second term as president); to date Arroyo has declined to testify before her government's Congress. —T.S.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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