Back in Power: Arroyo and the Media the Second Time Around
by Ana Catalina Paje
MULTIPLE ALLEGATIONS hounded Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s nine-year presidency. These included electoral sabotage, plunder, a record-high number of human rights violations, including extra-judicial killings of activists and the massacre of 52 civilians in Ampatuan, Maguindanao. She was detained for four years under hospital arrest because of charges filed against her after her term. The scandals continue to cast its shadow over her current political triumphs. After four years out of power, a political comeback seemed nearly impossible for the former president. But in 2016, Arroyo walked away from court, acquitted of the plunder charge — and two years after her release, she occupies the government’s fourth highest post as Speaker of the House of Representatives. She and her supporters managed a House coup d’etat that stole media attention from President Rodrigo Duterte’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) last July 2018. Then deposed House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez turned off the microphone and allegedly hid the symbolic mace, but all this accomplished was delay the inevitable transfer of power. When Arroyo ascended to the rostrum, the public witnessed the bizarre end to Alvarez’ dubious command of the House. The former president’s rise to her current post proves that despite the scandals of her past, she has retained her hold and influence in the Duterte administration. For the most part, media’s coverage has been short-sighted, reporting from the narrowest of perspectives; focusing on the political transactions in the House of Representatives that made her Speaker, but falling short of supplying the historical and political context of the events that transpired last July. Given most reports, the public would have had to recall on its own the corruption charges filed against her. Among other effects, the reportage enhanced her projection as a political player, her strong political instincts and the political skill to rally support among the traditional politicians dominating the House.
So is Arroyo providing the
much needed skill and competence that is needed in these desperate times? Is this skill going to be applied for the good of the country for her own personal gains?