Arroyo’s Sympathy Play

Former Philippine President Gloria Arroyo’s claims she is ill may have backfired in the court of public opinion.

In the Philippines, as in most places, an easy way to gain sympathy is to say you are sick. For the young, a sudden fever is a ticket to skip school to recover. If someone in the family is sick, he or she usually becomes the center of attention. And the same applies to politicians and celebrities, who easily gain public sympathy whenever reports come out that they are ill.

Former president and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo recently took some leave from Congress to undergo treatment for a rare disease, hypothyroidism, which apparently required surgery on her neck. But despite having had the surgery, her camp claimed that she still needed specialized medical attention that can only be found overseas. This has, unsurprisingly, raised suspicions that she has plans to flee the country to avoid pending corruption charges against her.

When I saw footage of Arroyo being mobbed in a wheelchair by the media at the airport during her foiled attempt to leave the country, one thing seemed clear: the former president is not in critical condition.

If she were, she would still be in hospital now, with her doctors working to stabilize her after she was mobbed in the media frenzy that greeted her. But her own doctors have reportedly confirmed what the public saw: she is fit enough not to require any immediate surgery or further hospitalization. And, like clockwork, her lawyers reversed their earlier claims and requested the former president instead be placed under house arrest.

Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.

I guess you can’t blame the former president’s lawyers – they are just doing their job, namely trying to keep her out of jail. However, we have to thank her doctors for their honesty – at least there’s one profession here we can still trust.

But in the court of public opinion, a small dose of honesty would go a long way to helping Ms Arroyo get a little more sympathy.