Taking a stand

N. Vizcaya, Quirino, Ifugao law studes blast GMA, join ‘resign’ calls

BAYOMBONG, Nueva Vizcaya–Law students from this province and Ifugao have joined calls for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, expressing exasperation over the “growing wanton acts of large-scale corruption” allegedly committed under her government.

Law students said the people have grown weary and frustrated, so that the only solution is to change the leadership that has been perceived to be either “an active party, an accomplice of or a passive onlooker” on anomalous deals in government.

“It is now high time for us to take action. The Arroyo regime has been duping us for a long while now. We cannot just stand here and let all these to go on,” said Dr. Bernard Balangatan, law student and university professor.

The group, however, clarified that their stand was their personal conviction, and should not be taken as the stand of their schools.

The students took Ms Arroyo to task for the “countless” cases of scandals and irregularities, and the “brash” attempts to cover up for these alleged anomalies.

Arroyo has reportedly undermined the institutions which, under the Constitution, are supposed to ensure a system of check-and-balance in the government.

“Ms Arroyo forced the people into desperation by muzzling all the means by which they can air their grievances. She has corrupted institutions, and employed force, violence and intimidation on sectors that wanted her to explain all the mischief in her administration,” said Elino Cambi III, a senior law student from Cabarroguis town in Quirino.

Since the outbreak of the “Hello, Garci” controversy in 2005, the President has supposedly led under a “politics of survival”, handing out bribes and other favors to lawmakers, local officials, military generals and even church officials to obtain their support, the group said.

“This setup has emboldened grafters in government to carry out more corrupt deeds of gastronomic proportions, and this is why we now have public officials demanding US$130 million in kickbacks from a US$262-million project,” according to Chiquito Diwas, also a senior law student.

Diwas was alluding to the scrapped US$329-million ZTE broadband deal, which, based on the testimony of whistleblower Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr., former Commission on Elections chair Benjamin Abalos Sr. supposedly brokered to get his share of the bloated project cost.

Of the total amount, US$70 million was supposed to go to lawyer Jose Miguel Arroyo, the President’s husband, Lozada said. Abalos and Malacañang officials had denied the allegations.

“As the leader of the nation, Ms Arroyo should have at least shown that she was not tolerating all these irregularities by genuinely ordering the prosecution of all those responsible,” Diwas said.

In an attempt to cover-up for the foul-up, government officials are being forced to concoct “obvious lies” in the face of testimonies of whistleblowers. Instead, witnesses are now subjected to various forms of harassments, mainly pushed by agencies of government and the President’s allies, they students said.

They cited the corruption charges filed against Lozada, the court martial of “Hello Garci” witnesses Brig. Gen. Francisco Gudani and Lt. Col. Alex Balutan, and the recall petition lodged by pro-Arroyo officials against Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio, who revealed the giving out of P500,000 cash to local officials right inside Malacañang.

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