Erap’s Pardon

I first viewed the report that President Arroyo has pardoned former president Joseph Estrada, who just weeks ago was convicted by the Sandiganbayan of plunder, on GMA 7’s “24 Oras” yesterday. When one of the program’s anchor, Mike Enriquez, announced they had contacted Erap’s son, Jinggoy, for a reaction, I put off the TV set.

I was angry and my blood pressure was rising. I thought that the only way to calm me down was to take refuge in silence. At home, after my editing work in Sun.Star Cebu, I watched TV programs except the news. Yesterday night was, I thought, one of the worst times of this country.

I wrote an article about Malacañang’s plan to pardon Erap for my column today in Sun.Star Cebu (I will reprint that in the latter part of this article). It turned out my thoughts were overtaken by events. President Arroyo didn’t even wait for things to settle down before putting her signature on the pardon document.

That, I would say, was the second whammy, the first whammy being the pardon itself. I say the haste in pardoning Erap was surreptitious. It was a preemptive strike, sort of, a move to put off balance the growing number of people who have voiced their opposition to Erap’s pardon.

And it confirmed earlier speculations that Estrada’s decision to withdraw the motion for reconsideration his lawyers filed with the Sandiganbayan was part of a deal that would lead to his pardon. Erap’s fate was decided not by the court or by the Filipino people but by himself and President Arroyo. That is scandalous.

Whatever shred of respect I had for this government has now been lost. If eventually this President fails to complete her term in 2010, then good riddance.

Here’s my October 26, 2007 column for Sun.Star Cebu:

former president joseph estradaFormer president Joseph Estrada, recently convicted for the crime of plunder, wants nothing less than absolute and unconditional pardon. Or that was what his lawyer Jose Flaminiano told President Arroyo. That was one problem. The other is Erap’s insistence he is innocent. That sounds like he wants to have his cake and eat it too.

We usually grant pardon only after a person admits committing an infraction and then shows remorse. But there are times when a person can extract pardon without being remorseful or admitting he sinned. A bully can do that to a sissy by pulling the latter by the collar and threatening him with harm if he won’t grant him (the bully) pardon.

The other day, I heard one of the private prosecutors in the Erap case, Simeon Marcelo, talk about strengths and weaknesses in relation to government institutions. He said something like if our institutions are strong then we would not bend the process to accommodate the former president. Meaning, we can force him to serve his sentence.

But while some of our government institutions may still be strong, Malacañang isn’t. President Arroyo is barely surviving and is clutching at straws. Erap, on the other hand, still wields clout with the political opposition because of his money, his perceived support from the masses and, worse, because many politicians bow down to his wishes.

If the President grants absolute and unconditional pardon to Estrada even if he is insisting on his innocence and is not showing remorse, then Malacañang is the sissy in the bully-sissy metaphor, which is not surprising because of the current fragile political setup. The act will, in turn, further erode people’s faith in our criminal justice system.

Crime and Punishment 101 will tell you that up to now the former president has not been penalized appropriately for the crime he committed. The only high point in this sorry episode of our history was when he was arrested in 2001, an act hailed by many—rather prematurely, on hindsight—as a “triumph of the rule of law” in this country.

Much has been downhill from then on. While Erap was first jailed in a military camp, his treatment relaxed from the time the Sandiganbayan heard his case. Not only was he eventually placed under house arrest (in the comforts of his rest house in Tanay, Rizal), he was allowed to lead a semi-free life, gracing every available family activity.

I won’t blame people if the Erap case will seem to them like all fury signifying nothing—more so if the President finally pardons the plunderer and permanently frees him. The hurt must be felt more by prosecutors, like Marcelo and Dennis Villa-Ignacio, and witnesses like Luis Chavit Singson, who risked their lives to make the case stick.

But no, maybe Marcelo, Villa-Ignacio and Singson are luckier. My heart bleeds more for Clarissa Ocampo and other well-meaning witnesses who endured a change of lifestyle in the hope that justice will eventually be served. With Erap freed from detention, I don’t know if they will feel secure or will be able to move on with their lives.

And I feel sorry for us, ordinary citizens of this country, especially those who were in Edsa in 2001 or, if they were not there, believed in the cause that Edsa 2 espoused. Politicians have once more put a heroic effort down the drain. What a pity.

7 Responses to Erap’s Pardon

  1. jcsmith says:

    I’ve found a suitable ribbon that we can use for this topic.

    Black Ribbon at Philippine Updates

  2. […] cebuano added an interesting post today on Erapâs Pardon.Here’s a small reading:I was angry and my blood pressure was rising. I thought that the only way to calm me down was to take refuge in silence. At home, after my editing work in Sun.Star Cebu, I watched TV programs except the news. … […]

  3. lito vasquez says:

    Hi Bong,

    Preemptive strike indeed.

    It was barely few hours after I heard in the radio that Cardinal Vidal signed a letter, along with Senate President Villar and House Speaker De Venecia, asking pardon for Estrada when I saw on tv Secretary Bunye declaring it.

    I can still remember the following day after Estrada stepped down from Malacañang and we in Barug Sugbo, the anti-Estrada broad formation calling for his resignation/ouster, had a meeting. Many already expressed disappointment about the jockeying for position in Malacañang, even among Cebuanos belonging to prominent political clans, as if Edsa People Power 2 did not took place. Even then, there is already a sense of deja vu that everything, particularly those that matter most to us as a nation, will not turn out to be as expected.

    Controversies hounded GMA, but people, even during the “Hello Garci” incident, continue to say we lack alternative and they would rather choose the lesser evil.

    Alternatives were actually presented, both economic and political. Economic, because for all the school degrees GMA had, she failed to provide any new economic direction and opted to continue her predecessors’ track. She even outdid her predecessors by borrowing P1 trillion more than the combined debts accumulated from the Aquino period up to Estrada’s.

    In the political front, I could not believe that we lack quality leaders among the millions of Filipinos. But many still cling to the “lesser evil” concept.

    In the end, this “lesser evil” thing is proven to be a hoax. GMA’s pardon of Estrada exposed her to be equal, if not worse than Estrada.

    We have a perfect slate. Having failed to prosecute the Marcoses, we set free an unremorseful but convicted ex-president.

    Lito V.

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  5. Nov. 6,2008

    Opinion/Commentary
    Granting Of Presidential Pardon Must Have Controlling Measures
    By Quirico M. Gorpido, Jr.

    Granting of presidential pardon must have some controlling measures to be strictly followed by any incumbent President of the republic. Whether the recipient of a presidential pardon is a former President or ordinary citizen who is found guilty of a crime, the controlling guidelines should always prevail in granting such kind of clemency. To grant presidential pardon to a former head of State or any Filipino citizen who is convicted of a crime, should be based on the weight of a crime committed and the duration of punishment he has to undergo in a prison cell. The decision should not be anchored on the whims and caprices of any president or to the irrational clamor of some sectors who are supporters of the convicted public official.
    In a natural law, it says “what you sow you will reap”. In another way of saying it, “If you sow a wind, you will reap a whirlwind”. In a more understandable language, it is “If you sow bad, you will reap bad; if you sow goodness, you will reap goodness”. And science term, it says “In every cause, there’s an effect.” Base on all the definitions that we have stated, it is clear that “a person has to bear the consequences of his misdeeds”. The Nature’s law must be applied to all convicted persons regardless of his/her status in the society.
    However, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has curtailed the flow of this natural law, thus stopping the consequences of former President Joseph Estrada’s conviction who is found guilty of plunder by the Sandiganbayan .In fact the case of actor-turned-politician Estrada was conducted in a series of public hearings by the Sandiganbayan that it has reached six years to finish. With the presentation of evidences against him by the complainant, it was found out that he was guilty of plunder, which he denied until he was granted presidential pardon by President Macapagal-Arroyo.
    Now Estrada and his supporters were deeply elated of his freedom which he gained in a silver platter. But the people who love justice and fairness are not happy with the rush granting of presidential pardon. .For corrupt officials in the government and those who are prone to commit graft and corruption, they would be amused and smiling of what Madame Gloria did. They would be thinking that with the president’s intervention thru the so-called presidential pardon, any well-known public official who is guilty of plunder or other crime can easily get out of the hook. Where’s the good example here of a big official who committed a big crime like plunder and found guilty but was just released without allowing to suffer the consequences of his misdeeds? Only in the Philippines can we find this impulsiveness kind of decision? That’s a big question mark and to other public officials who have the inclination to commit wrongdoings in the government. They have seen a flagrant model of unpunished convict which is too bad an example for all of us who love justice and fairness.
    We are not against the granting of presidential pardon per se, due to the fact that the convicted Estrada is already 70 years old. What we are saying here is that a convicted person must pass the kind of punishment in accordance with his misdeeds, regardless of the convict’s age. If impunity is being considered or still be enjoyed by any ex-high government official where is justice and fairness here? And I don’t think the Filipino people, particularly the millions of Filipinos who are suffering in the depths of poverty will like that kind of presidential pardon granted to a convicted former big official. And what about the time and effort invested by the lawyers of the Sandiganbayan who conducted a series of public hearings to dig the evidences and evaluate the truthfulness of the charges against him? Did it not go in vain after all?
    Nevertheless, if the convicted Estrada needs a presidential pardon how much more for those convicts inside the prison cells and were repentant of their wrongdoings and wickedness? They have also waited for a presidential pardon. Those convicts who have served their respective prison terms of half of the length of punishment and have changed their ways of life, deserve such kind of presidential pardon from the President after conducting an in-depth evaluation of their performances inside the penitentiary, character,behaviour and personalities. On the other hand, Estrada’s pardon can wait until such time that he has served a portion of his sentence despite of his age. In applying the natural law on justice and fairness, the age of any person doesn’t matter for those who have committed crimes against the people of a certain country like the Philippines . Why? There’s a big difference between a repentant 35-year-old convict and the unrepentant 70-year-old convict. There’s also a big difference between a disciplined and prudent 35-year-old trusted public official to a 70-year-old public official who has forgotten that the people were the ones who put him in power and that h e/she should act in consonance with the legalities of the law and not on his/her impulsive decision.
    If there’s no clear law yet on the granting of presidential pardon, Congress must act now with urgency on this regard. This is to make sure there would be no future repetition of such kind on the granting of presidential clemency in an illogical and improper way. If such law on this concern is already in existence, it should be reviewed by Congress and make some amendments to avoid the abuse of such prerogative power in the future. (Copyright 2008Quirico M. Gorpido, Jr.)

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  7. Renato Pacifico says:

    Filipinos are irresponsible democratically. We are also irresponsible believers of organized religion. We are irresponsible financially. We easily get fooled by pekeng-peryodistas.

    Take this. When Pekeng-peryodista Ces Drilon was kidnapped. Association of gung-gung pekeng-peryodistas imposed news blackout so as not to anger Abu Sayaff. Didn’t they checked their knuckleheads that Abu Sayaff loves the glare of publicity? Abu Sayaff even lined up all decapitated heads of the Marines for the pekeng-peryodistas to jostle for a good shoot. IDIOTS!!! I look up highly to these peryodistas but they are just STUPID AND PLAIN IDIOTS!!!

    They are dumbing Filipinos!!!

    If you line up all pekeng-peryodista and shoot them blindfolded, you likely hit a stupid pekeng-peryodista who are traded, bought and bidded to the highest bidder.

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