THis is from the Manila Tribune.
Erap is the nickname for former president Joseph Estrada--his movie nickname. I can see why there would be a clause in which Estrada is supposed to agree not to run for office. The deposed president is far more popular than Gloria Arroyo the present president! Estrada was deposed by People Power which eventually brought Arroyo to power although she has been elected since. Arroyo constantly worries about People Power now and does all she can to repress it!
Erap now free, all rights restored
By Sherwin C. Olaes
Deposed President Joseph Estrada is now a free man, following President Arroyo’s grant of his full pardon yesterday, restoring his full civil and political rights.
Estrada is expected to leave his detention today, no longer accompanied by his police guards.
Following the grant of executive clemency, Mrs. Arroyo ordered Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno to personally relay the order to Estrada at 9 a.m. today which will formalize his release from detention.
The order of Mrs. Arroyo which was read to the media by Acting Executive Secretary and concurrent Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye, used as basis the age of Estrada, who is now 70 years old and his six-and-a-half years in detention.
The order said all the political and civil rights of Estrada are now restored but the forfeitures imposed by the Sandiganbayan on his questioned properties “remain in full force and in full,” except for the bank account(s) he owned before his tenure as president.
Bunye read the statement of Mrs. Arroyo on the Estrada pardon.
“Whereas, this administration has a policy of releasing inmates who have reached the age of 70. Whereas, Joseph Ejercito Estrada has been under detention for six-and-a-half years; whereas, Joseph Ejercito Estrada has publicly committed to no longer seek any elective position or office; in view hereof, and pursuant to the authority conferred upon me by the Constitution, I hereby grant executive clemency to Joseph Ejercito Estrada, convicted by the Sandiganbayan of plunder and imposed a penalty of reclusion perpetua. He is hereby restored to his civil and political rights,” part of Mrs. Arroyo’s order said.
“Upon acceptance of this pardon by Joseph Ejercito Estrada, this pardon shall take effect,” the order added.
Bunye said they did not wait for the
written recommendation of the Department of Justice (DoJ) because its Acting Secretary Agnes Devanadera already verbally participated in the crafting of the order.
Bunye said the President merely exercised her presidential prerogative mandated by the Constitution.
A reliable Palace insider told the Tribune yesterday that Mrs. Arroyo added the “unenforceable” conditions, such as his not running for the presidency again as well as the bank accounts while he was president, were a “face-saving” act for Mrs. Arroyo, and meant also to “appease” some of her allies and anti-Estrada forces, who have been vocal against an Estrada pardon.
Contacted by the Tribune, sources from the Estrada camp said there was never any commitment made by Estrada of his not seeking the presidency, pointing out that when one’s political rights are restored, one can again vote and be voted upon.
They added that even that forfeiture proviso was questionable, since the Sandiganbayan decision was clear that only the so-called Boracay Mansion, along with the Erap Muslim Youth Foundation funds in the bank account were subject to forfeiture.
Estrada has consistently stated that neither properties are his and that the court could have them forfeited.
“Even the legitimacy of (Mrs. Arroyo) has not been established through that pardon,” they pointed out, saying that as she is sitting in Malacañang exercising the power and authority of a president, the grant of executive clemency must come from her. But this does not mean Erap’s recognition of her legitimacy. A de facto President can also grant such pardons.”
Senate President Manuel Villar, in a statement, welcomed the executive clemency extended to the Estrada by the Arroyo government. Despite the Sandiganbayan conviction, saying that “President Estrada remains in the heart of the masses.”
“The executive clemency extended to former President Joseph Estrada is a great step towards reconciliation, which is vital to our country’s unhindered passage to progress. This act emphasizes the value of humane consideration and compassionate justice,” the statement read.
Estrada’s son, Senate President Pro-Tempore, also welcomed the news of his father’s release, but also stressed that like his mother, former First Lady and Sen. Loi Estrada, he remains in the opposition.
Earlier, national leaders threw their support behind the move to grant executive pardon to the former leader in an effort to unite the country and help the government in realizing its dream for economic recovery.
In a letter dated Sept.16 - four days after the Sandiganbayan convicted Estrada of plunder – they pointed out to Mrs. Arroyo how the grant of absolute pardon to Estrada will heal the deep divisions in the country and help the government focus its efforts on pressing national problems.
The letter to Mrs. Arroyo was signed by Ricardo Cardinal Vidal, Villar and Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr.
The letter states in part: “For too long, since Edsa II which resulted in the relinquishment of the Presidency by former President Estrada, his indictment before the Sandiganbayan, detention without bail, have diverted the attention and efforts of our country from critical problems of poverty, development, terrorism, peace and order, and social tensions.
“The Sandiganbayan decision convicting former President Estrada, and sentencing him to “reclusion perpetua,” could lead to the deepening division among our people, and most disturbing perhaps, between those in the upper echelons of society and those beneath, among the masses of our people.
In their letter, Vidal, Villar and De Venecia noted that despite the humiliation Estrada suffered after his downfall and arrest, he remains as popular as ever.
“What is astounding, and which compounds the problem, is that he continues to enjoy the affection of a great number of people. Strange as it may seem, their belief in his innocence of the offenses he is accused of does not appear to have been diminished by the Sandganbayan’s decision. To add to his tragedy, his mother is critically ill.”
They added: “With the multitude of others of like minds, we appeal and ask the President to extend full, free and absolute pardon to former President Joseph Estrada and that he unconditionally accept this act of clemency from the President.”
There were others who disagreed with the pardon given Estrada.
Not surprisingly, former President Fidel Ramos, prior to the announced grant of pardon, warned Mrs. Arroyo not to be “hasty” with her pending decision to grant Estrada full pardon.
“I warn the president not to be hasty,” Ramos said, adding that Mrs. Arroyo should consider the sacrifices made by many people in pursuing the plunder charge against Estrada. He said this pardon could be her downfall since Estrada can call on his supporters and stage a people power revolt against her, the way they did in 2001.
“This thing is bigger than GMA (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo) or Erap. We are stakeholders here, the people of the Philippines,” Ramos said.
Estrada’s defense lawyer, Rene Saguisag, in a television interview, slammed Ramos’ sanctimonious position, bringing up the issue of the many scams under his regime, for which Ramos avoided trial and conviction by plotting, along with then Vice President Arroyo a year before the actual ouster of Estrada.
Saguisag said: “On Mr. Ramos statement that if Malacañang gives Estrada a pardon it would be a terrible calamity, we all have to look and start to investigate all the numerous scandals and corruption that had happened under his (Ramos) administration. Let’s start with Amari, the Centennial scam where billions of government funds were pocketed by corrupt government officials under his (Ramos) term. Let’s look at the corruption under this Arroyo regime, we have the $14 million bribery scandal that Mrs. Arroyo’s justice secretary Hernando “Nani” Perez was linked to (the approval of power contract of an Argentine Impsa), we have the P3 billion fertilizer funds scam of (Mrs. Arroyo’s) campaign fund raiser and former Agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Jocjoc Bolante. It’s all graft and corruption in huge magnitude. Why do we always pin all on Erap, why it is always Erap? He had been detained for so many years and on charges of jueteng kickbacks (illegal number games) which do not even involve government funds,” he said.
Puno said the decision of Mrs. Arroyo to issue the pardon to Estrada underwent a grueling two months study.
Once freed from detention, Estrada plans on visiting his ailing 102-year-old mother at a hospital in San Juan Medical Center, with Ramos saying that Estrada had kept quiet about any political plans.
Estrada has said he is innocent of the corruption charges brought against him and that his prosecution was a conspiracy by the powerful elite, the church and President Arroyo.
With AFP and Tribune wires