Posted by: mensab | January 28, 2010

9 Years of EDSA Dos: Reliving and Keeping its Spirit and Message

Convicted and pardoned ex-president: Still no apologies and running for president

Former president and movie star Joseph Estrada of the Philippines is a freed man. He is also eligible to run for president according to Commission on Election (Comelec).

As the first former president in Southeast Asia to be convicted of corruption (two counts of plunder) on September 12, 2007 and sentenced for 40 years of imprisonment, Estrada was granted pardon by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA) on October 25, just 43 days after the conviction. And now he has a shot again for presidency.

The explanations given for the pardon were that Estrada was already 70 years old, had been in house arrest for six and a half years, and had committed not to seek any elective positions in the country. The last one is brazenly a mockery of the intent of GMA’s controversial pardon.

Justifying the pardon, GMA in a speech before the Philippine Business Conference said that “national unity, rule of law, justice with accountability” were the reasons behind the pardon. Again, the last reason is a disgrace to “justice with accountability.”

Various sectors and personalities were divided on the issue of pardon to Estrada. Asserting that justice and fairness should prevail, the influential Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) expressed opposition to the pardon while few bishops backed pardoning the ex-president. Former president Fidel Ramos (1992-1998) warned the Arroyo government that the pardon could be the start of its downfall while former president Corazon Aquino (1986-1992) who came to power through the first people power revolution welcomed the pardon for the deposed president. The loudest opposition to pardon came from the civil society and left-leaning groups that toppled Estrada from power while the most vocal supporters of the pardon were allies of the former president.

Estrada was ousted from power in 2001 by the second people power revolution over corruption and lavish lifestyle scandals. GMA who was then the Vice-President assumed the presidency and was declared winner in the controversial 2004 presidential election despite evidences of widespread cheating and electoral fraud.

As predecessor of Estrada, GMA is also facing and hounded by various corruption charges and scandals in the impeachment cases filed against her since 2005, 2006, and 2007. Critics of the Arroyo administration interpreted the pardon to ex-president Estrada as precedent to GMA if she is found guilty of the charges after her term of office. Her incumbency as President provides her immunity and shields her from being charged in a trial court.

In his homecoming, Estrada was greeted by thousands of his supporters. As a popular movie star, he draws his main following from the masses. Just like in the movies he usually portrayed, he returned home triumphantly. The typical endings of his movies thread on the redemption of the protagonist.

Will it be the same in real life?


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