Erap’s Second Round Farce

by Juan L. Mercado

Tragedy,  we’re  told, repeats  itself in farce. Now,  the only president convicted for plunder titillates us with a farcical offer to seek repeat  his tragic aborted term.

“It’s 90 percent sure the opposition won’t agree on a single  presidential candidate.”  ex-president  Joseph Estrada says.  So, how about me?  The mahirap, he claims, will re-elect him, hands down.

The legal eagles and, ultimately, the Supreme Court,  may  have to decide.  But will  we have elections in 2010?  If so, will it for a president?   Or for a prime minister in a parliamentary  system?

And who that will be?  Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, if  the  frenzy in the Lower  House to rewrite the Constitution means anything. Estrada  will be the Ping Lacson of 2010 – the man who split the opposition.
For now,   look at the credentials of this man – unchastened by a 40-year prison sentence for massive  theft. Gifted by the Filipino people  with a rare opportunity to serve, Erap blew  it. Don’t we all?
“Four things  never return,”  the old  proverb says., “The sped arrow, wasted time, the spoken word —  and missed opportunity.”

In  his early  Malacañang days, Erap’s favorite conversation piece was a unique watch. It counted  down the 2,191  days from delivery of   his inaugural speech “Now Power Is With the People.


Ghost-written by Teodoro Locsin Jr,  his speech spelt out pledges that he  welshed on.  Re-reading them today underscores the betrayal.

This time, things will be different,” he vowed ”What  wealth will be generated will be equitably shared. What sacrifices  are demanded will be evenly carried. This much I promise: for every sacrifice you  carry, I will carry twice the weight to make freedom more meaningful.

“My promises are the hopes of ordinary Filipinos like myself” he said. ”The common  people have waited long enough for their day to come.

“That day is here. Now, power is with the people. One of their own has made it.”

But  Erap’s count-down wristwatch  stopped  barely two years after his Luneta address. Vice, concubines, and his midnight cabinet of thieves  blacked out intimations of mortality. He failed to deliver.

”Erap  never did understand the true meaning of poverty,” writes Prof. Aprodicio Laquian who was Estrada’s presidential chief of staff. “To Erap…helping the poor was no more than giving them charity…These gestures were short term palliatives….

“His programs became an incoherent  mishmash of fragmented actions,” Laquian notes in his book: “The Erap Tragedy”. Erap declared war on poverty. And poverty won.…”

Between 1997 and 2000, overall poverty increased from 25.1 percent to 27.5 percent,” Philippine  Human Development Report documents. “There were an estimated three million more poor Filipinos in  2000 than in 1997.

Erap’s  frailities  interlocked with  governance  failures. “Power now is with the concubines,” the Sun-Star said of   Estrada’s “5-K governance — “kamag-anak,  kaibigan, kaklase, kumpare — at kabit”  
Worried  aides  meet covertly with a presidential mistress over the tailspin,  International Herald Tribune Thomas  Fuller  reported. In boudoir privacy, she passed the blunt message on to Erap. “Jueteng,” , late-night boozing, lavish mansions for concubines,, etc. were greasing a slide into impeachment. .

The message “delivered that night was prescient,” Fuller wrote in his report titled, “Colleagues of Philippine President Depict A Leader Disdainful of Daily Tasks and Hampered by Life Style.”

“The story … is about an administration that, from its first days in office, was hampered by the quirks of a president who bumped from one scandal to the next,” the Tribune noted. “[His] critical shortcoming is his inability to reconcile presidential obligations with personal excesses: his late night drinking sessions and his gambling.”

Ouster by People Power Two, arrest, detention, protracted trial and  conviction  followed. “[Ferdinand] Marcos tested the limits of political oppression and our capacity to endure it,” Institute of Asian Church and Culture’s Melba Padilla Maggay then wrote. “Estrada tests limits of moral corruption and our capacity to get roused to indignation…

But the economic fallout from the moral rot illustrates the time-honored truth: that no society can survive without a minimum of moral sense.”Indeed, “private indiscretion and immorality of leaders have tragic national results,” added  the Institute’s  Evelyn Miranda Feliciano.

Asians, therefore, insist that leaders possess “sageliness within and kingliness without” (i.e., character and competence). Many voted for Estrada as sage and king who’d reach out to those who drew life’s short straws.

In a parody of  his Rizal Park address, a critic says: “An imperial carouser made it.”
Now, Erap would  brush aside all that sordid legacy.  He’ll  seek reelection. ” This is a delusion.  “Call back yesterday, “ Richard II  cried.. Bid time return.”  But it won’t. His failures and shortcoming are etched in history.

He is betting  on people’s short memories.  The massa love him, he claims. This we have to see..  Perhaps,  Erap   needs to remember what Cardinal  Wolsey, who served Henry VIII at the cost of conscience  said on his  death bed.:

“Had I served my [country] with half the zeal / I served my  my king  [barkadas], God would not, in my old age/ Have left me naked to mine enemies.”

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