“Oh Cory, how could you?” That was what I said to myself when told last Monday that former president Cory Aquino apologized to convicted former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada for her role in his ouster during the January 21, 2001 EDSA II.
A COPA (Council on Philippine Affairs) stalwart, who was at the Joe de Venecia (JDV) book launch held at The Podium in Mandaluyong, called me last Monday to express his reaction to Cory’s now famous apology.
“I am one of those who plead guilty for the 2001 (EDSA II). Lahat naman tayo nagkakamali. Patawarin mo na lang ako (All of us make mistakes. Forgive me),” Cory said to Estrada.
The apology story was carried as the STAR’s banner story the next day as well as the banner story of other leading newspapers.
When I heard about Cory’s apology for EDSA II, for a moment there — I and not a chair was almost wrecked! I have a stake in EDSA II, just as I have a stake in EDSA I. And I feel no need to apologize for both. On the contrary, I am proud that I came forward to be counted when my country needed me.
I was the Chairman of COPA when Chavit Singson approached our group in September 2000 to seek help in exposing what is now referred to as Juetengate — the expose that led to EDSA II and Estrada’s ouster. In fact, it was your Chair Wrecker who prepared the communications strategy for the expose and I feel that I don’t owe Estrada an apology for having done that.
We in COPA believed that Chavit had the goods on Estrada. We in COPA were morally convinced that the truth must be exposed if the gains of EDSA — the 1986 People Power Revolution — are to be preserved.
EDSA icon, the late Jaime Cardinal Sin shared those sentiments too and we know that for a fact because we were liaising with him all the way, keeping him informed of the developments and seeking his counsel for our next moves. And to this day, none of us in COPA regret what we did then for our country.
We may apologize for the replacement president who turned out to be worse than Estrada. But then COPA never wanted the replacement and was for a RESIGN ALL situation in the top four executive posts, with the Supreme Court Chief Justice heading a transition government.
Because of our RESIGN ALL position, then Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) sought a meeting with us on January 11, 2001 to convince us to endorse her so-called constitutional succession.
In that meeting, as COPA Chairman, I conveyed to GMA the three reasons why we cannot support her ascendancy:
1. We do not trust her management style. After having worked with her in 1996 to 1997 for her failed bid to run for president in 1998, we ended up rejecting and leaving her.
2. We do not trust her character.
3. We do not trust her husband.
The only commitment of COPA was to pursue the full course of the expose and to seek the remedies for an unworthy Estrada presidency. In other words, we do not care to see more of the Estrada presidency but we will not work for GMA to become president.
GMA became president ten days later mainly because Cory Aquino and Cardinal Sin opted to follow the constitutional succession order.
Upon hearing the news about the Cory’s apology over EDSA II, I immediately sought clarification from Cory’s son, Senator Noynoy Aquino, and her son-in-law Manolo Abellada by sending them this text message: “Other Coryistas and I who took part in EDSA II were stunned at Cory’s apology to Erap. What brought this about? GMA’s sins do not absolve Erap’s. We feel betrayed.”
Noynoy responded in a few minutes with this text: “As I understand it, it was in response and in the same vein as Erap’s attempt at humor by forgiving JDV. My mom, as you know, does not make impulsive decisions but does so only after a lot of prayer and consultations. I am sure that given the issues then, the decision for EDSA II was correct and still is correct. Given her condition and what she has done for all of us, can’t we give her some slack?”
Manolo Abellada’s text response was this: “That was a joke. That (info that it was a joke) came from her.”
After I saw the TV footage of the apology, I had no reason to doubt what Noynoy and Manolo told me via text messages. We have to take it in the context of the situation — a light moment of tongue-in-cheek banter. In fact, Cory started out by joking about JDV. Cory said that she did not attend the book launch because of JDV but because of JDV’s charming wife, Gina de Venecia.
As I also explained to Arnold “Igan” Clavio and Lala Roque in a phone patch interview over their highly-rated DZBB program last Tuesday, there are several dimensions to also consider in that so-called apology.
There is the spiritual dimension of Cory Aquino. Even if said in the context of a joke, it is not beyond Cory to try to smooth the hurt feelings of someone who has been deferring to her. Cory has always appreciated the graciousness of Estrada. Cory did what she felt she owed the country in 2001 but that does not remove the kind feelings for Estrada.
As I am one who is already on my third lease on life, let me tell you that when you’re in the situation that Cory Aquino is in today, politics and history are of less importance to you than the prospect of soothing hurts we may have caused our neighbor. And it matters not if these hurts were based on justified actions we have had to take. The spirituality and humanity of Cory Aquino will lead her to do that.
As I also shared with Igan and Lala on DZBB, we also have to consider this dimension — Cory Aquino’s preferred mode of announcing an important message. Cory Aquino is a very formal person. If she will make a historic announcement — such as one that EDSA II was a mistake — then she will do that in a formal setting (no joking about it) and very likely with a prepared statement to ensure clarity and accuracy.
It is Estrada and his deluded drumbeaters who should be taken to task and not Cory Aquino who merely played like a good sport by maintaining the jovial atmosphere of the book launch. For too long, Estrada has been allowed to peddle fiction for reality, offering our gullible masses illusion for economic salvation.
Now, Estrada’s camp wants to pass off a joke as an official pronouncement of a titan of Philippine history.