GMA unwittingly exposed their hypocrisy
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-11-06
I was first taught that God writes straight with crooked lines by our Jesuit educators at the Ateneo de Manila University. Simply put, God's ultimate design for good is not always immediately apparent to finite mortals like us.

The hasty pardon dispensed by Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) to former president Joseph "Erap" Estrada only six weeks after he was convicted for plunder makes me wonder if this is a manifestation of allowing the crooked ways of crooked people to pave the way for good to flourish. GMA's precipitate pardon of an unrepentant convicted plunderer had inadvertently exposed the hypocrisy of many of our so-called leaders. They supported GMA's calculated and self-serving act of mercy even without considering the motives as well as the ramifications of this aberrant and arbitrary use of executive power on the country's respect for justice and the rule of law.

To me, the biggest losers are the leaders of the Catholic Church who had wholeheartedly endorsed the GMA pardon for the unrepentant sinner. Offhand, I can cite Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and Bishop Ted Bacani although many more Church leaders also endorsed the GMA pardon.

How can Cardinal Vidal, Bishop Bacani and those other Catholic Church leaders now reconcile their support for the controversial pardon with Church doctrine that grants absolution ONLY after a sinner has admitted guilt and professed contrition?

Joseph Estrada refuses to acknowledge guilt and insists that he is "guiltless." Endorsing a pardon for an unrepentant sinner contradicts Church teachings.

This serious deviation from Church doctrine calls for an immediate clarification from the Vatican. It undermines the very principle and spirit of Holy Confession where acknowledgement of one's sin and sincere contrition are requisites for forgiveness and absolution. Coming from a Cardinal and a Bishop no less, this contradiction becomes a matter for no less than the Pope to clarify or censure.

Division among the leaders of the Catholic Church has been viewed as manifestations of personal opinions of the men of the cloth insofar as the political issues are concerned. However, this recent division took exception because one side runs counter to what is a clearly defined Church doctrine.

Another big loser is Joseph Estrada himself. From a previous posture of being a 'hero and a martyr' of the Opposition who refuses to compromise, his pardon and the equal haste with which he grabbed it exposed the true color of a man whose only concern had always been to look after his own wellbeing — this was the case then as it is now.

Of course, those who look up to Estrada as their leader are naturally lost and bewildered. What happens to them now? They continue to have a big issue with the woman they regard as an illegitimate president. How do they now live with this new development where Estrada himself called GMA 'president' and thanked her profusely for his pardon?

Wouldn't Estrada's adoring masses be baffled by their champion's sudden intriguing obeisance to this very woman known to be the former president's archenemy? Would they not feel orphaned and left in their poverty and misery to fight their causes against the Arroyo regime? How are these people expected to interpret the obvious contradiction between Estrada's refusal to be associated with efforts to oust GMA and his claims that he continues to be with the Opposition?

Senator Jinggoy Estrada was one of the most passionate inquisitors in the Senate National Broadband Network hearings and was eagerly pressing the ZTE bribery issue in order to stick it to GMA. Now, Jinggoy announced plans to personally thank GMA for freeing his father and also distanced himself from any GMA impeachment case.

Perhaps realizing the effects of his sudden turnaround, Estrada announced last Friday that he will still support an Opposition impeachment case. The Estrada father and son political song-and-dance act reeks of sheer self interest and an all-too-easy tendency to abandon their cause once personal interest is served. They’ve certainly proved themselves unworthy of the public trust they posture to have in great abundance.

I am not sure if Ronnie Puno and GMA anticipated this outcome. Many of us are inclined to believe that the pardon was motivated by a pressing need to diffuse the growing pressure from the ZTE scandal and the subsequent exposés of bribery in Malacañang.

In pardoning Erap, GMA neutralized a serious threat to her political survival and at the same time also eroded the political credibility of the Estradas. Joseph Estrada may no longer be eyeing public office but son Jinggoy is reported to be seeking the Vice President slot under Senate President Manny Villar when the latter runs for president in 2010.

The net effect could only be good for GMA. Regardless if her public ratings improve or not, she has managed to substantially erode two of the biggest threats to her continued stay in power — Joseph Estrada and the Catholic Church.

The Serpent in the Garden of Eden could not have done a better demolition job.

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