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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Another one bites the dust, thank goodness

Another one bites the dust, thank goodness

Forgive me, but it’s hard not to gloat when an arrogant political harlot gets her comeuppance.

So it’s been an effort recently not to smirk and mentally yell “yeah!” when seeing pictures of former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo being arrested for “electoral sabotage”.

The provocative charge covers everything from buying votes and stuffing ballot boxes, to arm-twisting officials and co-opting provincial jefes to deliver seats and make viable opponents disappear.

If the investigators are right, little Gloria, now 64, pretty well ticked off every box in the Machiavellian handbook that wayward rulers use to enable them to claim to be the people’s choice.

As the daughter of revered former President Diosdado Macapagal, she used her maiden name to win kudos and greater respectability.

For a time it worked, and when she took over from the bumbling and scandal-plagued Joseph Estrada in 2001, there were hopes she would lead an efficient and financially sound administration.

After all, she had a PhD in economics from Washington’s Georgetown University and had been a classmate of former US President Bill Clinton. So how could she behave badly?

Well, knowing she lacked a popular mandate and might not receive one in the 2004 election, she allegedly conspired with officials to ensure her own victory.

In a hacked phone conversation with one of the senior election commissioners, she was recorded giving orders for the result to be rigged so that she would win by one million votes.

And that’s what happened. But plain folks were peeved, protests ensued and several of Arroyo’s ministers resigned and pleaded with her to follow suit.

Instead, aside from admitting to a “lapse in judgment”, she rode out the crisis and rebuffed impeachment attempts.

Sooner or later, however, what goes around, comes around, and the laws of the land have finally caught up with her. And she knows it.

In a last ditch attempt to avoid arrest, she tried the age-old tactic of claiming that she had to go overseas to receive medical treatment.

So when charges were about to be brought against her last month, Arroyo went to the airport in a wheelchair, wearing neck and back braces and a bizarre restraining strap across her forehead.

Claiming to suffer from a bone ailment that could not be treated at home, she wanted to go to Singapore – a favoured haven for well-heeled fugitives and a place where many nurses are Filipinas.

As well, the Lion City has no extradition treaty with Manila, but hey, it would be too cynical to assume that was also a factor.

Anyway, it was all to no avail because the immigration agents, instead of stamping Arroyo’s passport, arrested her.

Shock, horror! Affecting the perplexed expression of a poor ingenue hounded by Big Brother, Arroyo actually looked more like Hannibal Lector’s niece mulling a casserole of jambes des hommes.

It was a stunning contrast from when I last saw her at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Washington during her 2003 visit to the United States.

Dressed in a red satin gown like a diminutive prom queen and surrounded by a phalanx of rugged aides, Arroyo arrived late and entered to the sound of deafening music. It was impressive.

Then, standing on an elevated platform and putting on glasses to read, she delivered a gushingly pro-American speech. I remember a nearby VIP was fast asleep and others looked about to nod off.

But she was a canny little vixen who endeared herself to President George W Bush by being among the first leaders from this region to express strong public support for the invasion of Iraq.

So there you have it: chummy with Dubya, a classmate of Slick Willy, and now charged with electoral sabotage.

Oh, and on top of that, a Manila-based colleague of mine who reported her administration’s venality was robustly beaten up by state sanctioned thugs.

So, yeah, I think there are grounds to gloat.



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