How did we deserve the Estradas?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2012-12-16
In the US and in European countries, a public official involved in a sexual scandal would immediately resign. The rationale for this social norm is that public office cannot be entrusted to a man or a woman that cannot be faithful to the marriage vow.

Of most recent vintage was the sex scandal involving ex-CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) Chief David Petraeus that led immediately to his resignation. In 1988, Senator Gary Hart was the frontrunner for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Hart’s campaign suddenly collapsed when his affair with Donna Rice was exposed. The Hart-Rice scandal spawned a joke about a remarkable new diet ‑ eat rice and lose everything.

US President Bill Clinton almost lot his job because of the Monica Lewinsky affair. Clinton went through the impeachment process and was just lucky to escape conviction even if the Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress.

Right thinking foreigners often asked me during the Joseph “Erap” Estrada presidency — how did you country ever manage to have him as president? They weren’t only questioning Erap’s moral fitness to hold public office, but his competence as well. The other side of that question is just exactly what kind of people we are for electing Erap president.    

From Day 1, the Estrada presidency was scandal plagued. He maintained at least six known wives and every household would tend to have its fair share of power brokers. This made the Estrada administration visibly corrupt, as it was hard to keep under wraps so many power brokers peddling influence all over the place. Proud to be Catholic yet we Filipinos were not scandalized enough to reject a presidential candidate like Erap.

In a 2000 article, respected journalist Sheila Coronel wrote: “If there is anything that characterizes Estrada’s conduct of both his public and private life, it is a lack of discretion. The President flaunts his extravagance and his generosity to the women in his life. He believes that since he has been open about the complications of his private life — at least 11 children by six women and some other rumored mistresses — then he should no longer be held to account. That is why he gets really ornery when he is questioned about these matters.”
Opinion ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Erap became the first president to be convicted for the crime of plunder. On September 11, 2007, the Sandiganbayan found Erap guilty for the crime of plunder, meting a life sentence. Per the GMA Network Sept. 12 news report, “Estrada was accused of violating Republic Act No. 7080 for allegedly receiving P545-million protection money from jueteng (illegal numbers game) operators; diverting P130-million tobacco excise tax share of Ilocos Sur; receiving P189.7-million kickback from Belle Corp. for GSIS, SSS purchase of P1.8-billion worth of shares of stocks and maintaining P3.23-billion “Jose Velarde” account with Equitable-PCIBank Binondo, Manila branch.”

There were no sterling accomplishments to at least offset Erap’s scandals. His administration made the effects of the Asian Currency Crisis worse for the Philippines. The peso dropped to its all-time low and the BW stock market scandal virtually killed investor confidence in our local bourse. Gambling became rampant during Erap’s term. He was everything that a rational father would pray that his son would not be.

We must therefore wonder if Erap represents the moral compass of the Filipino today. The eminent late Professor Emmanuel Q. Yap often reminded me that Filipinos are not bothered by official transgressions in government for so long as they like the person doing the crime. Subjective morality could also explain why some Filipinos find it easy to commit criminal acts.

It was Erap’s good luck to have been succeeded by Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA). GMA was unpopular from Day 1 and was almost toppled by an assault in Malacanang Palace by a pro-Erap crowd just four months into her term. An insecure GMA regime saw its survival enhanced by issuing a presidential pardon to Erap. By some stroke of luck, Erap was able to stretch the ambiguity of the presidential pardon to mean that he could run for public office again.

He ran for president in 2010. GMA’s scandals had made Erap’s misdeeds look like petty crimes. He would have landed third placer to winner Noy Aquino if my Kumpadre Manny Villar didn’t peddle falsehoods in his TV commercial.

Now Erap wants to become the mayor of the City of Manila. He has a son, Jinggoy, who is a senator, another son, JV, who is running for senator, and a wife, Guia Gomez, who is the mayor of San Juan City. In a Nov. 30 Pwersa ng Masa rally, Jinggoy hinted that the next step for him in following in the footsteps of his father is to run for Vice President.

That teaser didn’t surprise me at all. It had long been talked about that Jinggoy was aiming for the vice presidential post. His problem is that there are very good candidates that are also aiming for the post — Senator Chiz Escudero, appears to be the most formidable. Senator Bongbong Marcos is also reported to be studying the political field intently and might consider running for vice president. Depending on her showing in the 2016 elections, don’t discount Loren Legarda.

Within the Pwersa ng Masa-PDP-Laban coalition, Jinggoy may have the numbers because Chiz isn’t a member of either party. However, my estimate of public perception is that Chiz has the stronger image and has projected his competence well, especially during the GMA years. Besides, Vice President Jojo Binay owes Chiz a lot for playing an important role in engineering the Binay 2010 victory. That point when Chiz Escudero started his Binay campaign also coincided with the phenomenal rise of Binay from number three in the polls to number one.

What have we Filipinos done to deserve leaders like the Estradas? Compared to GMA, the electoral victories of the Estradas have not been tainted with electoral fraud. They won fair and square. They were really elected by the people despite their shortcomings.

Have we Filipinos become a nation of masochists that we want to inflict pain, and more pain upon ourselves?

* * *

Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

[Click here for the Archive]

Home | As I Wreck This Chair | High Ground | Career Brief and Roots | Advocacies | Landmarks Copyright 2006 The Chair Wrecker by William M. Esposo