Rants, raves as Estrada gets pardon

Within the hour of the announcement Thursday that former president Joseph Estrada has been granted pardon, administration supporters and critics flooded media networks with statements for and against his freedom.

The announcement made by acting Executive Secretary Ignacio Bunye came in the wake of scandals hounding President Arroyo and her administration, starting from the national broadband network (NBN) deal controversy to the alleged bribery in the form of “cash gifts” given to congressmen and local officials in Malacañang earlier this month.

The President’s critics questioned the timing of the offer of executive clemency to the ousted president. Some said directly that she “undermined the rule of law.”.

The offer of pardon came amid new allegations by NBN whistleblower Jose de Venecia III in the Senate hearing on the investigation of the scrapped deal.

Sen. Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal said the executive clemency offered to Estrada “is a double-edged sword.”

“The pardon of Erap as definitely used as a political weapon to diffuse present controversies… the issuance of the executive clemency by Mrs. Arroyo at a time when she and Mike Arroyo are being hit by revelations of graft and corruption, particularly the new exposé of Joey de Venecia today is a media stunt to ensure only her political survival,” said Madrigal.

Renato Reyes Jr., Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) secretary-general, also said as much.

“The early pardon of Estrada by PGMA is timed to blunt the negative impact of the damning testimony of Joey de Venecia vs Mrs. Arroyo and FG Mike Arroyo. The motive for granting the pardon is utterly self-serving for Mrs. Arroyo.”

Alberto Lim, executive director Makati Business Club, said,

“We are disappointed especially with the timing dahil maraming nangyayaring gulo ngayon (because there are controversies happening now), like the revelation today of JDV III at the Senate ZTE hearing at ang issue ng suhulan (and the bribery issue).”

Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casiño, for his part, said,

“Pardon granted to Erap smacks of an opportunist political maneuver rather than a magnanimous act of justice… The executive privilege of granting pardon has been reduced to a crass political move to neutralize PGMA’s foes at this critical time of her administration.”

The Black and White Movement, a civil society group, focused its comments on the signal Mrs. Arroyo’s offer of clemency sent to the people on the issue of graft and corruption.

“Message is clear. You can steal all you want and get away with it. Nananawagan kami sa lahat ng nanunungkulan sa pamahalaan na samantalahin na at magnakaw ng husto. Tutal naman, madaling makakuha ng pardon. Ginagago tayo ni GMA. (We call on those serving in the government that you can exploit your position and steal. Pardon can easily be gained. GMA is making idiots out of us),” the group said.

Akbayan Rep. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros-Baraquel did not hide her disdain of Mrs. Arroyo’s order.

“By granting pardon to Erap, GMA has undermined rule of law. This is a political insurance for her and she hopes that the same privilege would be extended to her once she face accountability for her own crimes.”

“She (Arroyo) trampled upon the indignation that she used to get herself into power. Let us mark this day as a day of impunity, a setback against our struggle against corruption,” Baraquel added.

News wires agency Agence France Presse reported that Sen. Richard Gordon’s comment went along the same line.

“If we are going to show the world that we are for the rule of law, then there should be no pardon for Estrada.”

Before the President’s order was announced Thursday, former president Fidel Ramos warned Mrs. Arroyo not to make be “hasty” in deciding on an Estrada pardon.

“It will be a terrible calamity to the great majority of the Filipino people who suffered from plunder,” Ramos said.

Villaignacio: The challenger

Special Prosecutor Dennis Villaignacio, meanwhile, vowed to challenge the executive clemency granted to Estrada.

Villaignacio said that according to the Constitution, Estrada is not eligible for pardon.

The government lawyer cited Article 7, Section 19 of the Constitution that states: “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 judgement. ”

He added that based on the amended guidelines for recommending executive clemency, Estrada must sign the letter sent by lawyer Jose Flaminiano requesting pardon from the President for his client.

Earlier, Villaignacio sent a three-page letter to acting justice chief Agnes Devanadera opposing the grant of full and unconditional pardon to Estrada.

Villaignacio said the grant of pardon to Estrada will erase all the efforts of the prosecution panel to punish corruption in the country.

He said Estrada’s camp did not follow proper procedures in requesting for pardon.

Villaignacio said the request for pardon for Estrada was not signed by the former president. He said Estrada may later on disown the letter request. He said Estrada did not fill up a petition form with attached biographic data, conviction details among others.

He said that Estrada’s age at 70 is not sufficient in the possible grant of pardon since the important aspect of a request for pardon is the admission of guilt. He said everyone knows that Estrada has not made that admission. He added that there should be “substantial incarceration” after the conviction.

He said the law does not allow impeached officials to be granted pardon.

Devanadera did not tell media her answers to Villaignacio’s position but said, “OK, pero (but) I have my own study… there are other things but these are minor.”

A group called NOPE or No Pardon for Erap also opposed Estrada’s pardon.

The group said Devanadera should not immediately send her recommendation to Mrs. Arroyo since the former president’s request should first be processed by the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP).

Devanadera, who is the chairman of BPP, however, said the request need not go through the board. She said the President can immediately act on the request for pardon.

‘Erap still the man’

But if there were anti-Estrada sentiments, positive statements were also given for the pardon.

Former president Corazon Aquino said that she is pleased to hear that Estrada has been granted executive clemency.

“I am happy for former president Joseph Estrada and his family,” Aquino said in a statement relayed by her spokeswoman, Deedee Sytangco.

Aquino, who once sided with the civil society groups in overthrowing Estrada six years ago, said she hopes he will continue to serve the less unfortunate or the “masa.”

“I pray, that as a free man, former president Estrada will harness the lessons he has learned from the sufferings he had endured and continue to serve our less fortunate brothers and sisters,” she said.

Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada immediately issued a statement of gratitude to President Arroyo for granting executive clemency to his father, deposed president Joseph Estrada. He, however, said that he will remain as an opposition lawmaker.

“I would like to thank this administration, most specifically Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, for granting the pardon of President Joseph Estrada and this is coming from heart,” the senator said in an ANC interview.

The senator, who is attending a conference in Geneva, Switzerland, said his father did not know that the President was about to grant him an executive clemency Thursday.

“When I talked to him this morning he did not have any idea yet that Mrs. Arroyo will grant this pardon for him,” he said.

Despite the pardon, the senator said he would maintain as an opposition lawmaker.

“As a senator, I will continue to do my duties and responsibilities. If there are anomalies in this government, I will continue to expose it. As an opposition, I will not change my view,” he said.

Senate President Manuel Villar, meanwhile, also issued a statement welcoming Estrada’s pardon following the announcement made by Bunye.

“I join the great number of Filipinos in welcoming the executive clemency extended to the former president by the Arroyo government. Despite the Sandiganbayan conviction, President Estrada remains in the heart of the masses,” he said.

The Senate chief added that the executive clemency extended to is

“a great step towards reconciliation, which is vital to our country’s unhindered passage to progress.”

He also said that Estrada “has suffered enough.”

Opposition Sen. Francis Escudero issued a similar statement, saying that he welcomes the former president’s freedom.

Find more like this: Politics

2 Responses to Rants, raves as Estrada gets pardon

  • benjie estuche says:

    Congratulations Philippines! Now, we have closed another episode in our history as a democracy…and everybody is happy except those who wanted more blood to be spilled than just a conviction and a pardon.
    Now we can move on and rob the people blind again!

  • Spy says:

    CRIME DOES PAY IN THE PHILIPPINES!

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