Outsiders who listen to Filipino politicians talk on the impending resolution of the plunder case against former president Joseph Estrada will surely be amused.
The year 2001 when People Power 2 booted Estrada out of office is but some six years ago, and yet it seems like the Erap of 2001 is a total stranger to the Erap of 2007.
The old Estrada, as painted by then senator Teofisto Guingona, was evil personified; Guingona now talks about Estrada like he is a saint.
In 2001, people were so incensed by the alleged excesses of the Estrada government that they condemned, at times harshly, everybody associated with it.
Remember the catcalls and the jeers then Erap allies Robert Jaworski and Gregorio Honasan received when they attempted to join the Edsa crowd?
Now Guingona is demanding that Erap be freed and some members of the group Plunderwatch no longer cares whether the former president is convicted or is acquitted.
Now the image of Estrada, like the other president toppled by People Power, the late Ferdinand Marcos, is being rubbed clean by his politician allies and loyalists.
Express your belief now that Erap may be found guilty and all the pro-Eraps, from politicians down to fanatics will gang up on you—a reversal of roles.
This is the problem with our politics: law and justice often take a back seat in the midst of the wheeling and dealing of politicians and their supporters.
Past events are interpreted and re-interpreted to fit political goals.
In the end, though, there are the courts and our justice system.
If there’s any consolation, the former president is tried not in the courts of public opinion but in the courts of law, where ideally evidence is the main consideration.
Spin doctors can manipulate people’s perception using all the tricks in the game but not the mind of a court trained to appraise presented proof.
That, of course, is the ideal setup because courts can also be pressured or worse manipulated by politicians, whether they are in the administration or the opposition.
The Sandiganbayan, then, should be up to the task in resolving Estrada’s plunder case, or calls for the people to respect its decision will all be for naught.
–Candido O. Wenceslao (I wrote this for the July 7, 2007 editorial of Sun.Star Cebu)