“Once upon a time, I lived happily ever after.” Movie actor Mickey Rooney offered this one-sentence story of his checkered career. He played roles alongside film giants, including Spencer Tracy and Judy Garland. Later, he skids into drugs, gambling and bankruptcy.
“Once upon a time”, a movie actor assumed he’d “live happily ever after” in Malacanang. Filipinos gifted Joseph Estrada with an opportunity: to serve selflessly as 13th president of the republic.
Erap’s conversation piece, in those euphoric days, was a unique watch. It counted down 2,191 days from delivery of his inaugural speech “Now Power Is With the People”. But jueteng, booze, sleaze, plus a honky-tonk “midnight cabinet”, stopped that watch two years into his six year term.
“Now, power is with the concubines,” Sun-Star said of Estrada’s “5-K governance — kamag-anak, kaibigan, kaklase, kumpare — at kabit Ousted by People Power Two, he was detained, tried and convicted for plunder.
No Filipino president shares this “distinction”. Ferdinand Marcos dodged it by scampering out the exile backdoor. We hope no other president, or prime minister, will be so “honored” —, for our grandchildren’s sake.
Erap’s conviction, and equally sordid pardon by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is blots on our history. Not even God can alter the past. Men can only doctor historical accounts. The Marcos’s, bankroll rewriting of the “New Society” …
Indeed, “four things never return”, the old proverb says. These are: “the sped arrow, the spoken word, wasted time — and missed opportunity.”
For squandered opportunities, re-read Erap’s Luneta speech. In cadenced prose, stitched by ghost writer Teodoro Locsin, Jr, Erap spelt out pledges of service, especially for the mahirap. .From day one, he fractured them, with soused relentlessness:
“There is no excuse for the spread of crime in any society, unless government is an accomplice,” he said. He’d use presidential power to clobber “hoodlums in barong and acquitted by hoodlums in robes, dishonest stockholders”, etc.…
“Must we always measure progress only by the golf courses of the rich…? This time, things will be different…The poorest would enjoy first priority… What wealth will be generated will be more equitably shared. What sacrifices are demanded will be more evenly carried.
“This much I promise, for every stone of sacrifice you carry, I will carry twice the weight… The job is mine now and I’ll do it….The common people have waited long enough for …for their day to come. That day is here.”
That day came — and went as the regime stumbled from one scandal into another: Jose Velarde, “midnight cabinet” carousing. Borcay mansion, mistresses, Dacer-Corbito murder, BW stocks became bywords. Aborted impeachment, People Power Two ouster, arrest, protracted trial and conviction followed.
Today Erap would brush aside that sordid legacy. Without blushing, he threatens to seek reelection. ” The same delusion afflicted Richard II. “Call back yesterday,” the monarch cried. “Bid time return.”
Will we have elections for president in 2010? Or will it be for a prime minister in a parliamentary system? The major contender would be Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. That’s what the Lower House frenzy to overhaul the Constitution means.
Can a convicted-then-pardoned ex-president run? That will spiral into a Supreme Court case. “It’s 90 percent sure the opposition won’t agree on a single candidate,” Erap gleefully claims. So, how about me? Only Vice-President Noli de Castro matches his clout with the strapped D and E social classes. .
The most recent surveys, however, show four “presidentiables” outpolling Erap by double digit margins, tartly notes the Inquirer editorial “Erap’s Folly”. . Aside from De Castro, they are Senators Manny Villar, Loren Legarda and Chiz Escudero.. “The worst deluded are the self deceived”
“His present striving for power brings back to memory those two precious years when he made a fool of himself as president,” Sociologist Randy David notes..”It ( also ) awakens the impulses that brought many angry Filipinos to Edsa Shrine in January 2001.”
The “mahirap” felt personally attacked when police mistreated Estrada, David adds “But they also know that Erap betrayed their trust while he was president. He abused his powers…In so doing, he insulted, not only himself, but also the Filipino poor who looked up to him to represent their aspirations.”
“My family does not eat sardines,” Erap once snapped, recalls Aprodicio Laquian who was Estrada’s presidential chief of staff. It was a tell-tale reaction of well-hidden disdain for the poor.
”Erap never understood the true meaning of poverty,” Laquian notes in his book: “The Erap Tragedy” For him, “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…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..
“Once upon a time”, an itinerant Teacher from Galilee wept over Jerusalem. The city squandered opportunities for service and grace . “Because you did not know the time of your visitation,” he warned, “not a stone will be left upon stone” in you.