MANILA, Philippines – She used to mark her birthday with a jampacked schedule, hearing Mass in her hometown of Lubao, Pampanga, and jumping from one appointment to another in her trademark style as a workaholic president.
On Thursday, April 5, former President and now Pampanga Rep Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo spends her birthday – for the first time – under hospital arrest at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center, Quezon City, for an electoral sabotage charge.
Her husband's lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, who often speaks to the media about her condition, says Arroyo is bored.
More precisely, Topacio says in jest, she is bored “over-Noynoying.”
“Noynoying,” a viral term that means “doing nothing,” comes from the nickname of President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, and refers to his supposed idleness and inaction on pressing issues.
“She's 'Noynoying' in the sense that it's not the kind of pace of work that she's used to,” Topacio told Rappler in a phone interview on the eve of Arroyo's birthday. “What she can do in detention is very limited.”
For one, he said, the court prohibits Arroyo from using her laptop and cellphone, so the former President, a known micro-manager, has to make do with asking assistants to facilitate her need to communicate.
But Topacio concedes that being detained in a hospital, instead of a regular prison cell, still makes Arroyo fortunate. A former state leader, she is after all “not an ordinary prisoner.”
Mass, birthday lunch
Arroyo's schedule on her birthday, which falls on Holy Thursday, includes only 2 events: a Mass with family members and close friends this morning at 6, and a birthday lunch. “We will try to make it as normal as we can,” Topacio said.
Tough circumstances greet Arroyo on her birthday.
Other issues continue to drag her name in the news.
A key complaint against Chief Justice Renato Corona in his impeachment trial, for example, is Corona's alleged bias for her after she supposedly gave him a midnight appointment to head the Supreme Court.
An advocacy writer also recently revealed an inside story on her alleged political asylum bid in the Dominican Republic, Rappler reported Monday, April 2.
GMA 'not happy'
On spending her first birthday in a detention facility, Topacio said Arroyo is “not very happy about it.”
“But she's a woman of considerable strength. She's spiritual,” he said.
“I don't think one really adjusts to a life of incarceration,” Topacio said in an earlier interview with Rappler. “I think it's more of her just resigning to the fact and drawing strength from her faith. I think she has had time for reflection and she's now really determined to write her memoirs.”
In detention, Arroyo has also found time to criticize her successor.
In January, for example, she wrote an essay criticizing the President, her former student, for supposedly neglecting the economy for the sake of politics.
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.