Part 3: Confluence of interests
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s power and influence remain undiminished almost a decade after having left Malacañang and despite being put under four years of hospital detention. With Rodrigo Duterte at the helm, she was promptly released from detention allowing her to assume her seat in the higher echelons of state power.
For two years now, Arroyo has been a reliable Duterte ally. Claiming the House speakership was only a matter of time.
With the support of Imelda Marcos, and endorsement by Duterte’s daughter Sara, Arroyo installed herself as Speaker with relative ease. In doing so, she has helped consolidate the Duterte-Arroyo-Marcos alliance.
With Arroyo, Duterte sees better prospects for the charter change scheme under the pretext of pushing for the federal form of government. They have shared interests in the scheme as these would allow them to perpetuate themselves in power, jointly or otherwise.
All the Queen’s menFor Arroyo, coming back to the center of the political arena was not a difficult endeavor. After all, most of Arroyo’s minions and allies remain in positions of power, making it easy for her to maintain considerable influence in all three branches of the reactionary government.
The overwhelming votes for Arroyo’s speakership speaks volumes of her dominance in the Lower House. She garnered 187 votes or 67% of congressmen in attendance. As Speaker, Arroyo can use the pork barrel system to further extend her influence in the lower house.
Arroyo also appointed during her term as president six out of 15 current justices of the Supreme Court (SC), including Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, and Justice Lucas Bersamin, who the SC en banc recently nominated as the next chief justice. Even Samuel Martires, who Duterte recently appointed as ombudsman, was also appointed by Arroyo as Sandiganbayan associate justice in 2005.
In Duterte’s own cabinet, a number of secretaries have once served under Arroyo, including:
- Alfonso Cusi – the current Energy secretary, who served Arroyo as general manager of the Philippine Ports Authority (a lucrative post that many surmise as the source of his current unexplained wealth). He was also linked to the 2004 presidential election rigging controversy.
- Roy Cimatu – current Environment and Natural Resources secretary, who served as the 30th Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in 2002.
- Francisco Duque III – current Health secretary. He first served as president and chief executive officer of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) in 2001. He then served as cabinet secretary in 2004, then as health secretary from 2005 onwards.
- Eliseo Mijares Rio Jr. – the acting secretary of the Department of Information and Communications Technology. He served as commissioner of the National Telecommunications Commission in 2001.
- Eduardo Año – the acting secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government. He also served as chief of staff of the AFP under Duterte in 2016. Under Arroyo, he served as head of the Army’s intelligence division and is believed to be the mastermind in the abduction and enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos.
- Fortunato dela Peña – the current Science and Technology secretary. He began his stint in the said department as undersecretary for Scientific and Technological Services for 13 years.
- Silvestre Bello III – the current Labor secretary. He served as cabinet secretary under Arroyo.
- Delfin Lorenzana – the current Defense secretary. A known US lackey, he served as Defense and Armed Forces Attaché to the US during the Arroyo regime wherein he helped develop the US-Philippines Balikatan Exercises.
- Bernadette Romulo-Puyat – the current Tourism secretary. She is the daughter of Alberto Romulo, who served Arroyo in various capacities, including being the secretary of Finance, Executive secretary, then Foreign Affairs secretary. Romulo-Puyat herself was part of the Presidential Management Staff during Arroyo’s tenure.
- Hermogenes Esperon – the current National Security Adviser. He served as the 36th Chief of Staff of the AFP in 2006.
With Arroyo back in power – with the help of the Marcoses and the Dutertes – an unholy alliance of plunderers and fascists has been formed. Right now, this alliance is persevering to pass the regime’s priority bills, especially the draft Federal Constitution, which will enable them to consolidate and extend power.
Arroyo is all too familiar with this move, as during her term, her regime attempted to push for constitutional reforms several times. In 2005, she issued Executive Order 453 which created the consultative commission to revise the 1987 Constitution. However, despite the recommendations of the said commission, Arroyo decided to push only for one amendment – to change the presidential form of government with a