CHICAGO (JGL) – I have been hearing rumors that the Philippine Supreme Court is in the cusp of deposing my friend, former President and incumbent Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada, and have him replaced by defeated Mayor Alfredo S. Lim.
But I cannot find the right reason that could complete the trifecta and totally humiliate the brewing Estrada political dynasty.
I have my own private disagreements with the management styles of Mayor Estrada but removing him from his elected position is not the solution for changing his behavior.
I heard that one of the main reasons that Estrada does not deserve a minute longer to serve as mayor of Manila is that when he ran for office, he broke his conditional pardon in 2007 when he “publicly committed to no longer seek any elective position or public office” when he was extended an executive clemency by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo following his conviction of plunder by Sandiganbayan and imposed the penalty of reclusion perpetua (life sentence).”
If you are a Filipino and you know your customs and traditions, you would agree with what Erap did. According to Filipino customs, if you want to survive, kakapit ka sa patalim (grip at the knife’s edge or straws) specially if you are breaking for freedom.
A prisoner negotiating his release can never be in equal footing with his custodian.
No matter the hindrance a custodian or pardon’s board would impose on a prisoner, like Erap renouncing interest in running for public office, the prisoner will always accept the hindrance or condition if it will give him freedom.
If the Arroyo government were really smart to restrict Erap’s freedom and future actions, it should have placed Erap under “probation” or should have made the pardon conditional such that in case, Estrada breaks his promise not to run for office, Erap loses his civil and political rights.
ARROYO RESTORED ERAP’S “CIVIL AND POLITICAL RIGHTS”
With Arroyo “restoring” Erap’s “civil and political rights,” it was exactly what the doctor ordered for Erap – it was his key to run for public office. When Erap ran for president in 2010, nobody stopped him. Shall we say, somebody tried to stop him but it did not work because it was too late in the day. What will be the guarantee that it will work this time?
I remember the Filipino folk tale of the Monkey and the Turtle. When the Monkey threatened to chop the Turtle into pieces, the Turtle said, “Yes, you do that and the Turtle will multiply.” When the Monkey changed his mind, the Monkey said I will toss you in a fireplace, the Turtle said, “Yes, you do that the Turtle will turn red or yellow.” Confused, the Monkey told the Turtle, “Okay, I am going to toss you into the river.” The Turtle said, “No, please don’t do that, I will drown.” So, the stupid Monkey threw the Turtle into the river.
But Erap’s detractors are saying that if there is a right time to depose him, this is it because the Supreme Court was unanimous in unseating a mayor, Casan Macode Maquiling, who won but was later replaced by the second highest vote-getter, Rommel C. Arnado, not the vice mayor, during the May 2010 local elections in Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte in the Philippines.
They are saying that because Maquiling was disqualified because he ran for office although he was using his U.S. Passport, Estrada will likewise be disqualified because when Estrada ran for office in the May 2012 elections, he was already disqualified for running for mayor because he broke his conditional pardon in 2007.
If this is reason for the Supreme Court to strip Erap of his mayoral position, I believe, the justices should look for a better reason.
Article 7, Sec. 19 of the Philippine 1987 Constitution says, “Except in cases of impeachment, or as otherwise provided in this Constitution, the President may grant reprieves, commutations and pardons, and remit fines and forfeitures, after conviction by final judgment.”
PRESIDENTIAL PARDON IS UNREVIEWABLE
This presidential power to grant pardons is nearly unlimited and cannot be reviewed by any other branch of the government, including the Supreme Court. Pardons are not meant to correct a judicial error, such as a wrong conviction. Instead, pardons are intended for people who have atoned for their crimes and are thus being rewarded for good behavior, or for those who have completed their sentences. A pardon reinstates one’s freedom to exercise privileges, like carrying a gun or voting, or to apply for certain jobs, such as in law enforcement. And in the case of Erap, to run for public office if he so wishes as President Arroyo restored all his “civil and political rights.”
What is so wrong with “running for public office”? If Erap would be running for office so he can get back at his opponent and violate their human rights and enrich himself, I will oppose him. But if he will run for office to help the poor and improve the living condition of the Filipino people using all the legal means within his power, then, I will stand by him.
Erap’s nephew, Laguna Gov. Emilio Ramon “ER” Ejercito was ousted from office last May by the Commission on Elections for alleged excessive spending to win re-election while Erap’s son, Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, was placed behind bar for alleged plunder.
If the Supreme Court will unseat Estrada as Manila mayor because he broke his conditional pardon, which I consider flimsy, it will not only make the Philippines’ highest court of the land the biggest butt of jokes but it will just give Erap the ammunition to make another run for president in 2016!
Erap’s detractors should not worry because Mr. Estrada already learned from his mistakes – he will be a more magnanimous, not vindictive, leader. He just wants to complete his unfinished business that he set out to do before he was dumped by his cronies and his close allies.
But if the Supreme Court will let Erap finish his mayoral term, I believe, Erap will just fade into the sunset, let Vice Mayor Isko Moreno succeed him in office, and count his blessings!