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.”