What is “fair verdict” in the plunder case against former president Joseph Estrada? That question just popped up after I read this news item that said that more than half of respondents in a Social Weather Station (SWS) survey doubted if Estrada can get a “fair verdict” from the Sandiganbayan. How nebulous can an SWS survey question get?
SWS supposedly conducted the survey from July 18 to 20 in the Mega Manila area, which includes the National Capital Region and the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Laguna and Cavite. The respondents? A measly 600 people. And as usual in surveys like this, you do not know the people SWS talked with and the manner they were chosen.
With the barrage of reports on results of SWS surveys the past days, one gets the feeling there is some motive to this. They tend to prepare the ground for protest actions against the Arroyo administration if ever the Sandiganbayan convicts Estrada. Indeed, surveys can sound like propaganda if they bombard us with variations of the same theme.
So what is “fair verdict”? Is it the “fair verdict” of Erap, his son Jinggoy, their politician supporters and their loyalists/fanatics who are for Estrada’s acquittal? Or is it the “fair verdict” of the anti-Eraps seeking the former president’s conviction? I mean, Erap’s plunder case has so become politicized only few listened to the court proceedings.
The problem is that there has been a revision of our recollection of the events leading to Erap’s ouster through Edsa 2 the past few years. A big chunk of the political opposition has made Estrada a titular head and they are taking the lead in transforming his image into what he was not when he ruled: competent and honest, almost a saint.
So by “fair verdict” the respondents in the SWS survey must have meant Erap’s acquittal, which I say would be a blow to the country’s justice system and its image abroad considering that a number of foreign correspondents are itching to come here to cover the announcement of the ruling. This will be a case of a big fish getting away.
It’s good that some sectors are asking the Sandiganbayan to look into those SWS surveys because these seemed geared to pressure the concerned justices to let go of Erap. Besides, those surveys are misleading in that these were not representative of the thinking of majority of Filipinos being limited only to a few respondents in Mega Manila.
–-I wrote this for my September 6, 2005 “Candid Thoughts” column in Sun.Star Cebu