With legal cases being filed against them from left and right, the Arroyos have inevitably stayed in the spotlight since former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stepped down last year.
The former first couple of Gloria and Mike Arroyo have been forced to contend with a growing pile of claims over issues ranging from financial corruption while in office to the manipulation of the 2004 presidential race. And, just as the current Aquino administration has started investigating the Arroyos, the couple have claimed that they now have serious health problems that will interfere with the ongoing scrutiny.
The former First Gentleman, who has recently been implicated in a controversial helicopter transaction with the Philippine National Police, has been excusing himself from Senate hearings because of a heart condition. His wife, meanwhile, has been in hospital for delicate surgery to treat a pinched nerve. She has also excused herself from the ongoing investigations and media glare.
Critics of the couple have noted that feigning illness has for years been a tried and tested excuse in Philippine politics. And, when all other excuses fail, some former politicians and officials play the trump card of needing to seek specialist medical attention abroad. Such self-exile was even tried by former dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who fled to the United States to escape retribution at home. Other politicians have followed suit.
Of course, things have changed, with an extradition treaty in effect between the United States and the Philippines meaning the former colonial master can no longer be used as an escape route. The solution for politicians under fire now, then, is to go to a country that doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the Philippine government, as well as a banking system that allows individuals to hide their ill-gotten wealth.
That country would seem to be Germany. Certainly, during the height of the national broadband corruption scandal that almost toppled the Arroyo administration, the First Gentleman was quick to hop on a plane to Germany, disappearing for weeks on end until the storm died down. Back then, critics were saying that the First Gentleman had been preparing the ground – including opening bank accounts – for a possible safe haven in case things got really hot in the Philippines.
Now that they are, Mike Arroyo has reportedly taken another trip to Germany for a medical check-up. Will he be making some finishing touches to a ‘safe house’ there as well?