GMA's ultimate betrayal
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-10-28
Among the long list of betrayals the Filipino nation had endured in the hands of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), nothing matches her latest — giving former president Joseph "Erap" Estrada a full pardon.

Filipinos who know better and are quite capable of sifting through the highfaluting executive justification will know that all the haste and the seeming 'magnanimity' to grant pardon is really all about a desperate woman’s way of dodging the fates.

Even from her own political allies, Madame Arroyo encountered vigorous resistance. Senator Richard Gordon had firmly expressed his objections as early as September when it was first floated.

Dick Gordon said: "After taking the high road in bringing former president Joseph Estrada to trial and securing a conviction against him, the nation will be retreating to international ridicule and disrespect by cravenly trying to appease him with a presidential pardon."

Gordon added: "In the history of the world, we find numerous examples of the honorable course for a nation to follow in handling the celebrated cases of former leaders who ran afoul of the law. That course is for the nation to be firm and fair, and to pay decent regard not only for the opinion of its people but that of the international community as well.

This is the course which Peru is now following in seeking justice against its former president, Alberto Fujimori, after seven years of trying to repatriate him. This is the course which Korea followed in trying and convicting two of its former presidents. This is also the course the Philippines has followed in bringing President Estrada to court. We risk the scorn of other nations if we just throw away the vindication we won at such great cost and effort."

On the day that the pardon was announced last Thursday, former president Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) vehemently reacted, calling it a terrible calamity that will hasten the end of GMA.

"This thing is bigger than GMA or Erap. We are stakeholders here, the people of the Philippines. This proposal must be evaluated on account of its impact on other felons who may also demand the same treatment," FVR said.

Senator Jinggoy Estrada lashed at FVR — charging that the former president doesn't have the moral authority, citing the PEA-Amari scandal as an example of shenanigans during the Ramos regime. Senator Estrada forgot that his father was convicted of plunder while FVR was never charged.

Acting Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera looked pathetic as she tried to peddle the DoJ approval of the pardon. Devanadera opined that the humiliation of the conviction and the six years that Estrada spent in detention are enough to compensate for a sentence of reclusion perpetua.

Speaking before her favorite business forum last Friday, GMA again managed to keep a straight face as she thanked Donald Dee's PCCI (PCCI is also the initials of the Philippine Canine Club, Inc.) for appreciating the Estrada pardon as a sound move for the greater good. Overlooked is the greater responsibility of the leader of a nation to promote the rule of law, the cornerstone of social order.

Madame Arroyo rode to power on the clamor for JUSTICE and REFORM, the battle cry of EDSA II. Pardoning Estrada is the ultimate betrayal, one that directly spits on the efforts of the daring good men and women who took the risks in order to bring the biggest fish of them all to justice.

For Arroyo, the pardon is meant to diffuse the pressure of ouster — the fear that Estrada’s mass followers could provide the numbers for launching another People Power event.

For Senate President Manny Villar — who boldly forwarded the Estrada impeachment case which led to EDSA II — the supportive stance is all about his own presidential ambitions in 2010. It is the same with Senator Mar Roxas, another presidential wannabe. Vice President Noli de Castro also mouthed the Ronnie Puno sales pitch that the pardon will usher reconciliation, stability and all that bovine ordure.

Most of those who posture as our leaders and endorsed the grant of pardon cared less about the inherent damage it will do but cared more for the self-serving political advantage that the act presented. No society benefits from the utter disregard of the spirit of the law in exchange for political expediency.

Judging from the reactions, especially those coming from the upper and middle classes who are the key movers of society — the Estrada pardon only sharpened animosities and widened national division.

GMA and her minions forgot that practically the entire police and the military establishment sided with the people who engineered EDSA II. Their involvement was so extensive that Estrada's two top police and military generals, Panfilo Lacson and Angelo Reyes, were rendered totally inutile to protect Estrada and prevent his ouster.

The CBCP previously voiced their disapproval of an Estrada pardon. If the upper and middle classes will now decide to launch another People Power political event, who is to say that the police and military will not join their partners in EDSA II?

One of the many who sent me text messages to express their outrage was so agitated and used unprintable words in describing what he felt about Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. When I jokingly texted him back and asked if he was willing to be quoted in my column — he replied: "Yes, but just don't mention that up to today I have been a fence sitter."

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