Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was released from detention through a grant of bail by the Pasay City Regional Trial Court. Expectedly, her camp extolled the court decision as a “victory against dictatorship,” presumably the Aquino administration. It was even posited as a big blow to the anti-corruption campaign and the political standing of President Aquino.
I do not think these views are correct. The order for release of Ms. Macapagal-Arroyo does not, in the first place, mean her innocence in the charge against her; it only means that the evidence presented against her by the prosecution is considered weak by the prosecution. The case will continue to be tried on merits and additional evidence.
The political battle last November 2011 revolved around GMA’s attempt to flee the country and possibly escape prosecution. The instant case of electoral sabotage in the 2007 elections served then to prevent her from doing so by virtue of the hold-departure order issued by the Pasay City RTC. Incidentally, this also rendered moot and academic the controversial “watch-list order” issued by DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima. I doubt if GMA’s arrest and detention–which is the subject of the bail decision–was the primary objective during that period.
The political impact of the release on the Aquino administration is minimal. The hold-departure-order is still in place, reinforced by a similar HDO from the Sandigangbayan for a separate plunder case. Other cases are in the pipeline.
The GMA political base has already shrunk dramatically while the Aquino administration has already consolidated the power. If reports of her continued illness are correct, then the release would a correct move–from a political point of view–since it would remove state responsibility.
She’s free but not quite free.