Much ado about Arroyo, Estrada mug shots
A 10-year-old mug shot of former President Joseph Estrada has apparently revived bitter memories, and left the deposed ruler fuming.
“There’s no basis of comparison,” Estrada said in a phone interview. “She did all those illegal acts but … I was a victim of a big conspiracy involving the political opposition, the Church, the military, all of them.”
Estrada was commenting on the publication by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Monday of his mug shot together with a story on the arrest of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on a charge of electoral sabotage. Estrada’s picture shows him in police custody with a name card in front of him after he was arrested in 2001 on a plunder charge.
Old pictures of Estrada have begun circulating again along with mug shots of Arroyo—also published by the Inquirer—which were taken while she was detained at St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City.
Estrada noted the differences between the public reaction to his arrest in 2001 and the arrest on Friday of Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative.
“My arrest triggered Edsa 3, whose number was more than those of Edsa 1 and 2 combined,” he said. “There were so many people who sympathized with me, unlike today in the case of GMA (Arroyo).”
“She should just face the charges against her,” he said.
Estrada was detained for six years and six months before he was convicted of plunder and pardoned by Arroyo.
The mug shots of Arroyo evoked both sympathy and ridicule among Filipino netizens. The mug shots also appeared on the website mugshots.com. Online users also circulated them to social networking sites.
Some cried foul over the publication of the images. Others poked fun at them.
“I’m not a GMA fan but is this really necessary?” user Mabaskug asked in a comment on INQUIRER.net. “(N)ot everyone will agree with me on this, but all of us want even that little amount of respect do we?”
“Guilty or not, the woman is sick, at least let her recuperate first,” user Tactical Bumming commented on the same site.
For some, however, showing respect for the former President should not be an issue.
“I’m done with respect. Look, we’re still respecting the Marcoses till now,” user w33k3nd3 said. “We forgave every high-end robber that came and went, bludgeoning our country. We mean business—jail them no matter who they are.”
Good for business
Other users mocked the Arroyo images.
“It will be a big business hit if you print and sell the mug shots for souvenirs,” albert13 said, addressing entrepreneurs. “It is not only poetic justice. It is also brisk business.”
For Twitter user Pauljohnpena, the Arroyo photos say a lot of things about the Filipino voter: “Two past Presidents with their own mug shots. We just never learned how to vote.”
A court official confirmed the similarity between the photos of Arroyo as published by the Inquirer and those the police submitted to the court.
“Kamukha. Parehong-pareho (They look the same. They are very, very similar),” was how Joel Pelicano, the clerk of court of the Pasay Regional Trial Court Branch 112, described the photos published by the Inquirer and those on the court records.
Pelicano noted, however, a slight difference in the captions of the Inquirer photos and those on the photos in the court’s possession. The court photos had five-line captions, against the two lines in the newspaper photographs.
While acknowledging the photos were public documents, Pelicano said defense lawyers had asked the court not to release these because it may affect Arroyo’s “constitutional rights.”
Pelicano’s observation was shared by a high-ranking police official. In a television interview, Senior Superintendent James Bucayu of the Southern Police District (SPD) noted the similarity of the photographs but said the leak did not come from his office.
Bucayu has ordered an investigation to trace the source of the leak.
A different line
Malacañang had a different statement.
“From what we understand from (Interior) Secretary (Jesse) Robredo, the Criminal Investigative and Detection Group (CIDG) is saying that these were not the actual photos,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said at a news briefing. “There is no leakage because they are not the same photos.”
Told of Pelicano’s statement that the mug shots published by the Inquirer were “very similar” to those in the court’s possession, Valte said: “That will have to be settled … The CIDG is in a position to tell us if these are the very same photos or not.”
Robredo insisted the published photos were not the same as the official mug shots. “The photos are valueless,” he said.
He said he had seen the actual mug shots and was positive these were not the same photographs sent to the Inquirer and to the website. He said some of the information on the mug shots was only “superimposed” and “anyone can do that on Photoshop.”
Told that Bucayu had said the photos were similar, Robredo retorted that the police official did not have any authority to speak.
Robredo said that when Arroyo’s photos were taken, only seven people were present and they included her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo, her son Camarines Sur Representative Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo, a former Cabinet member and three PNP personnel.
Law not clear
Philippine laws are not clear on whether the publication of Arroyo’s mug shots constituted a violation of privacy.
But given the tendency of local courts to recognize the authority of their US counterparts, Senator Miriam Santiago said it would just be a matter of time before they took cognizance of a recent US Supreme Court ruling that publicizing a person’s mug shot “would be an unwarranted invasion of his personal privacy.”
Santiago cited the US tribunal’s 2011 decision on Karantsalis v the US Department of Justice where a convicted person complained after his mug shots were published.
But at least two senators maintained that Arroyo’s pictures were considered court records and, therefore, public documents fit for publication.
Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada recalled no ruckus was raised in 2001 after mug shots of his father were shown in newspapers and on television.
Senator Panfilo Lacson warned, however, that a newspaper could be liable if a court prohibited the release or publication of a mug shot. “But if the photos were taken from the Internet, that’s public domain,” he said.
Santiago said the Philippine Bill of Rights did not expressly indicate a person’s constitutional right to privacy.
“Neither can you find it in the Bill of Rights of the US … but if the US Supreme Court says there is a right to privacy, in all likelihood the Philippine Supreme Court will rule the same,” she said. With reports from Cathy Yamsuan, Miko L. Morelos, DJ Yap, Christine O. Avendaño and Lawrence de Guzman, Inquirer Research
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