Hold House Speaker Arroyo accountable for her human rights crimes — groups

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(File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, July 24) — Human rights and media groups have expressed dismay over newly-elected House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's return to power.

Human rights watchdog Karapatan said former President Arroyo must be held accountable for her administration's alleged bloody record of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances.

The group said more than 1,200 people were victims of extrajudicial killings and 204 of enforced disappearances under Arroyo's nine-year presidency starting 2001.

Sherlyn Cadapan was among the victims of alleged enforced disappearances. Her mother, Erlinda Cadapan, expressed fears that with Arroyo slowly regaining power, the suspects in the alleged abduction of her daughter may be freed.

One of the suspects in the case is retired Major General Jovito Palparan of the Philippine Army.

"Kahapon pa po ako lumuluha nang malaman ko kung ano bang klaseng gobyerno ang meron ang Pilipinas. Dahil yan po, ang makasalanan na tagapamahala niluluklok ulit. At sana po, ang dasal ko, ang pagkabalik kay Gloria sa Speaker of the House, isang mataas na posisyon ng gobyerno. Sana po di nila makalimutan maibalik din po ang aming mga kaanak. Ibalik din po nila si Sherlyn Cadapan," she said.

Arroyo's election as member of the House Representative in 2010, and now as leader of Congress' lower chamber is a stunning return to power for the 71-year-old Arroyo, who spent nearly five years under hospital detention for alleged corruption. The Supreme Court dismissed the case against her for alleged misuse of ₱366 million in intelligence funds of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) from 2008 to 2010. The high court ordered her release in 2016.

Aside from the PCSO case, Arroyo was implicated in the NBN ZTE scandal, the "Hello Garci" electoral fraud, and the Fertilizer Fund Scam.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, meanwhile, called for Arroyo to be held accountable for the Maguindanao massacre and deaths of more than 100 journalists under her term as president.

"The family believed to be behind this gruesome act has been abetted by the corrupt and bloody government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo through political, financial, military and other forms of support, emboldening them to commit unprecedented forms of atrocities," NUJP Deputy Secretary General Raymund Villanueva said, referring to the Ampatuan political clan whose members have been charged in the massacre.

The Maguindanao massacre has been tagged as the world's deadliest single attack on media workers. At least 58 people, including 32 journalists and their staff, were killed on November 23, 2009 in the town of Ampatuan.

"One hundred three journalists were killed during Arroyo's nine years – still the worst average annual death rate of any president," Villanueva added.

The majority of representatives voted for Arroyo as House Speaker on Monday night, ousting Pantaleon Alvarez.