Political controversies are not new in the Philippines. The earliest recorded scandal of Pork Barrel Scam proportions happened in 1946, under former President Manuel Roxas’s term.
Commonly referred to as the “Surplus War Property Scandal,” it involved the reported mishandling of $90 billion worth of funds raised from the sale of property used in World War II.
If you’re looking for more scams, controversies, mudslinging, and dirty politics, we’ve compiled five of the biggest political scandals that shook the country in the past years.
1. President Quirino’s “golden arinola”
Possibly the mother of all high-profile controversies that rocked the whole nation—and costed another shot at the presidency—was the “golden bedpan” of former president Elpidio Quirino.
Though lavish display of wealth was actually unverified, it made rounds and became a national sensation because of an article fabricated by Manila Chronicle editor Celso Cabrera. The rumor, which later former senator Francisco Tatad revealed to be untrue, sparked an outrage among the public and forever painted him as an American shill.
Eventually, the rumors were dispelled. Cabrera admitted that the former President’s bedpan was far from gold.
2. Jabidah Massacre
Whether or not you believe the Jabidah Massacre took place, it’s hard to deny the repercussions of the said controversy that is still affecting us 48 years ago.
According to numerous reports from the likes of Ninoy Aquino and former Captain Cirilo Oropesa, the government covertly recruited less than 200 Moros to destabilize Sabah and open it for reclamation.
With little to no documentation acquired, it was estimated that the number of trainees killed to cover up the cover ops was between 11 and 68. When the controversy made it to public consciousness, it tainted the reputation of the military as well as sparked Moro separatist movements in Mindanao, which is still a persistent problem of the government up to now.
3. Manila Film Center tragedy
The $25-million building was supposed to catapult the country as a film hub in Asia, but it seems like fate has other plans for the cursed Manila Film Center.
During its construction in 1981, the scaffolding collapsed and fell, and an unknown number of construction workers were buried underneath the pile of rubble and quick-drying cement.
Despite the magnitude of the tragedy, the government imposed news blackout on the said event and continued the construction to meet the deadline for the Manila International Film Festival. Accounts about the tragedy differ, yet one thing remains the same: our politicians would sacrifice many things, including citizens, just to maintain an illusion of wealth and power.
4. The Jose Velarde bank account
Whoever said that one name isn’t enough to start a revolution?
In 2000, the name “Jose Velarde” sparked a national uproar after Ilocos Sur governor Chavit Singson revealed that former President Joseph Estrada was the owner of the account with P400 million worth of illegal gambling payoff as well as P180 million kickback from tobacco farmers. The allegations caused the Congress to file an impeachment case on the former actor turned President.
When the Senate decided to not open an incriminating evidence that will impeach Estrada, protesters gathered at the EDSA Shrine to show their discontent. History repeats itself, as they say, and Estrada was forced to vacate the presidency.
5. “Hello Garci” scandal
Before the words “I am sorry” became a staple at comedy clubs to impersonate former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, these words were enough to infuriate people who believed she cheated during the 2004 elections.
One year after the 2004 presidential elections, a former NBI officer revealed he had in his possession the original wiretapped conversation of Arroyo talking to a certain Commission on Elections official to allegedly secure her victory as well as her allies.
While the former President denied the allegation of cheating and committing electoral offense, she however acknowledged that it was her voice on the said recording, prompting her to say the three famous words on national television.