I was on standby for a quick interview on Channel News Asia (Singapore). They asked three questions.
Was the verdict a surprise?
No. Estrada himself leaked what the verdict would be, and in general, the scuttlebutt prior to the reading of the verdicts indicated the eventual ruling (I didn’t go into this, but the scuttlebutt was this: some sources said, conviction for perjury but acquittal for plunder: this was actually the scuttlebutt for some time until yesterday; others, acquittal for perjury but conviction on all counts of plunder; the most accurate came late in the day yesterday, and it was: acquittal for perjury and conviction on two out of four counts of plunder, which proved exactly right).
The thing is, the verdict is still the next to the last step, since the former President can still appeal to the Supreme Court. Not that anyone expects the Supreme Court to overturn the graft court’s verdicts.
As it is, Estrada’s Supreme Court appeal might take 1-3 years; meanwhile, he does have a kind of new lease on political life by refusing administration offers of a presidential pardon or a congressionally-sanctioned amnesty; we have a scheduled presidential election in 2010 and he can then ask for or receive a pardon from the next president (I didn’t go into how his ability to extract a pardon might be improved by his backing a candidate in 2010). Until the appeals process is exhausted, it seems the confiscation of Estrada’s bank accounts and New Manila property will be on hold, and he won’t be deprived of his ability to sign contracts and checks before then.
How are Estrada’s urban supporters taking it?
Asking around, I was surprised to hear that many of his supporters were in shock. But beyond that, the main thing is that while Estrada has the support of a third of the population, emotions peaked in May, 2001 when his supporters attacked the presidential palace. Affection for Estrada doesn’t necessarily translate into many people being willing to risk life and limb for him: they did that in 2001 and it failed (I didn’t have time to go into this, but it also means that it could still result in his supporters voting for candidates Estrada endorses).
The Club Filipino press conference at 1 and the rally in the financial capital, Makati, later today will show their clout in terms of numbers. As it is, they announced 5,000 protesters at the Sandiganbayan but only 500 showed up (I didn’t go into whether or not talk of cloud-seeding last night and the announcement by the Left that they won’t participate in the rallies had anything to do with this). I also didn’t have time to mention a strong hunch I have, which is that most people simply don’t care anymore: the political tension was primarily the Palace’s and media’s making.
Is this a boon for the opposition?
Estrada’s stuck in a trap of his own devising. He submitted to the court, saying it was a kangaroo court doesn’t cut it. Again, I didn’t have time to point out that basically, Estrada’s shield and sword is his popularity: but what if he made a summons, and nobody showed up? A call to arms would reveal, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what the real numbers (and resources) of the Estrada camp are. But then, this is based on my belief that the Bastille moment for Estrada’s cause was in 2001, and when that failed, you can’t recreate it again. Too much time has passed.
I did say that one handicap the opposition will have is that no one wants to be responsible for turmoil on the streets -and being accused of sabotaging the economy; as it is, the stock market and the peso improved immediately after the verdict. I didn’t have time to suggest that things getting out of hand (presuming this is possible) would also have a negative impact on Estrada’s appeal.
So that’s that. Let the analysis begin. The lawyer-bloggers will be in the front line in trying to make sense of the decision, whether it’s a legally-sound or disappointing one. An early opinion is that the court was too kind to Estrada.
What irks me is Chavit Singson going on TV to gloat. Talk about playing with matches while perched on a fuel drum. So far, he’s been the last man standing, but who will end up having the longest lease on political life? My bet’s on Estrada.
Inquirer.net and www.soriano-ph.com link to the Sandiganbayan decision. Atty. Soriano’s also made the PDF of the decision available on his site. I’ve also decided to include it here. It will take some time for non-lawyers to digest the 200-plus page decision.
As a member of the Black and White Movement, here’s our group’s statement.
Blogger reactions have been interesting. Let’s start with a broader look at the continuing historical debate on Estrada’s fall (as Carlo’s Site points out, for an entire generation, the fall was the defining moment in terms of a political coming of age). Philippine Commentary argues that the Supreme Court made it impossible for justice to be upheld, while The Sassy Lawyer points out there is sufficient evidence to indicate Estrada relinquished his office, as well as the blunt realpolitik argument that success legitimizes rebellion. My own views are somewhere in between: I don’t think enough attention was paid by the Supreme Court to Estrada’s statement (on paper) upon leaving the Palace, and too much was paid to then Executive Secretary Edgardo Angara’s interpretation of events; it seems clear that while the public demonstrated out of frustration with the impeachment trial, a politico-military conspiracy also took place.
I don’t buy Paguia’s insistence on the constitutional clock being frozen, either. While I continue to hold that People Power is enshrined in the Constitution, I do believe that the logical ending for Edsa Dos should have been the proclamation of a revolutionary government: the problems since then have been along the lines of trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube. I also don’t think that People Power, per se, has been invalidated since then; but its limitations have been exposed and unless specific conditions exist, efforts to get it rolling will fail.
A prediction was made by Inner Sanctum. Anyway, Diego K. Guerrero says the decision was crap. Mabini Hall (columnist Geronimo Sy, who privately expressed dissatisfaction with my comments on his column praising the president; he said to please distinguish issues from personalities), expresses great satisfaction over the verdict, calling it a triumph of institutions. Patsada Karajaw Nation thinks the case is an exception and won’t set a precedent (something blog@AWBHoldings.com thinks, too). An OFW in Hong Kong takes a more detached look at the verdict: people are simply going to move on. pmaniego is frankly ambivalent, while bits and pieces says different people wanted different outcomes, but in general, there’s a positive lesson to be learned. Mommy Talks, Wife Stories, Girl Speak says the entire political leadership’s been indicted and convicted. Zwischen Immer und Nie has little patience for those asking for leniency for Estrada.
The Perpetual Malcontent remarked acquittal might have been nice, if only as a slap on the face of media. ExpectoRants says the President at least, apologized, while Estrada remains unrepentant. EJ’s Site makes a different comparison between Estrada and the President.
tonyo took the business community to task, while those of a different orientation, like pinoymoneytalk.com pointed to the boost in the markets after the verdict was handed down. i love the playing field takes school authorities to task, saying if they can set aside time for students to watch basketball games, they should have let students follow the proceedings.Stella Arnaldo points out the American solution for Watergate was a pardon for Nixon: and that a pardon for Estrada is inevitable.
So far, at least (not least because of the rain?) the sense of foreboding of Ilongga in Manila, of muffled solitude, and When Thet Speaks, among others, may prove unfounded. There were those, like Postcard Headlines, who were sure nothing major was going to happen. Most remarkable, to me, are the expressions of sympathy for Estrada, simply as a human being. Pity for Estrada was felt by The Chronicles of Ardee, and from what I see scanning the blogosphere, many others. From Dubai, Slap Happy recounts an early confrontation between Erap, newly-elected president, and people in Subic; and yet, how Estrada, now an ex-president, deserves a little consideration. Another rewind and fast-forward look’s taken by Bluepanjeet.net, and a quote is called for at this point:
Now six years later, the verdict finally arrived. The same battle cry that we used to chant in EDSA six years ago together with all the people of God has just been made into a realization, just an hour after this post was written.
I never regretted the fact that I became an instrument of history’s ousting of a corrupt president. It was a matter of national principle and moral ascendancy even though I myself and the rest of the Filipinos have our share of moral transgressions. What I regret is the fact that the person who replaced the former president is more corrupt and deceiving.
It is like an evolution: the more time flies, the more corrupt they become. No wonder many Filipinos these days are Atheist because Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution has proven true of these self-evolved supposed leaders of the Orient Pearl. In some point of my catholic perspective, I agree with some of my Atheist blog friends’ belief in Darwin’s Theory because they have proven correct in terms of our leader’s political evolution. Look at Gloria now… This is the only time that my catholic view of Darwin’s theory will fully reconcile on the atheist’s perspective of evolution.
In a recent SWS survey, Erap was found to be trustworthy than Arroyo and believed that the former is far better than the latter (Read the full SWS report). But the bottom-line is, justice is not dictated by public opinion. He committed acts of unbecoming of a president, which only deserve such penal discipline. Of course the sympathy outpours on the convicted, but be reminded that our acts towards men has consequences that has to be faced. And it is now time that Erap should face his’.
Now the Irony, if Erap’s minions six years ago did open the envelope, would he face this same kind of political “harassment” or dilemma in the first place? This kind of “What-if-question” will just remain as is that will haunt Erap for the rest of his life behind bars.
The other Irony, the situation for Arroyo is a lose-lose situation: Now Erap is convicted, Arroyo will soon face the charges filed against her and her hubby. Now that the court has proven that, no one is above the law even if you are a former president. With this, Erap’s minions will also work hard in trying to charge the president of mistrust. And if for instance, Erap was acquitted, still the same enthusiasm of getting Arroyo and her hubby behind bars will still prove potent for her enemies motivated by such intentions of getting back at her. This is the situation that Arroyo cannot escape. Whichever way her administration treat the case of Erap (which was recently concluded) she will still earn the ire of many Filipinos around the world, both inside and outside the realm of public surveys, just because like her predecessor, she failed to live up to her August’s office name.
Goliath has fallen, and the Estrada Case is only the beginning of a much heated ousting of a leader. Erap was found Guilty as expected and as common sense dictates. The next chapter is Gloria’s turn to caress the cold steel bars with her hubby with much help from most of the Opposition Senators.