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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Erap: Guilty or not guilty?

The answer to this question does not in any way provide a conclusion to this political issue involving former President Joseph Estrada and his plunder trial which aptly deserves its label as the “trial of the century”. Either verdict by the Sandiganbayan will not in anyway prove anything that will help our country move forward. The pro-Estrada camp will surely not take a conviction lying down. The same is true for the ‘other side’ in case of an acquittal.
When EDSA II happened back in 2001, I was too young to take an active part in it, much less fully comprehend what is going on back then. All my young mind could fathom then is that Estrada is the ‘bad guy’. Anyone present with the rest of the crowd gathered in EDSA clamoring for his removal from office is obviously one of the ‘good guys’. It is supposedly as black and white as that. Unfortunately, in reality, there is too much gray area in the myriad of issues, whether political or economical.
If acquitted, it will send a wrong message to our people and the rest of the world that crooks in this country can get away with messing with the government coffers. It would mean that Estrada was not a crook, therefore nullifying the very purpose of why EDSA II happened in the first place. Estrada’s ouster will be justified no more. Should we let Estrada continue his unfinished term as President then? It would come to show that the maturity that our judicial system showed when Estrada was arrested in 2001 was merely pre-mature, and a sham one at that.
If convicted, the member of the civil society that formed the very core that led to the success of EDSA II may feel vindicated and that justice is finally served for the Filipino people. But do we actually expect the Estrada family and their supporters to peacefully accept the decision and move on with their lives? Considering their defensive reaction to the controversial “Erap: guilty or not guilty – Kailangan bang may gulo?” print ads, I wouldn’t be surprised if another ‘EDSA’ is launched by the opposition – the very last thing we need right now. For sure, there will be negative repercussions to the economy, national security and the political arena.
I am no lawyer so I don’t claim to be an expert on the technical legalese and neither am I familiar with the specifics and detailed events in the 6-year plunder trial of Estrada. But I think I know enough to believe that we have suffered enough from too much polarity in Philippine politics.
Take the recent elections for that matter. It has been dubbed as Round 3 for the Estrada VS Arroyo fight. If you’re not on GMA’s side, you might as well be on Erap’s then. They insist that a vote for the Team Unity candidates is a vote for GMA (and the legitimacy of her presidency) whilst a vote for the Genuine Opposition is similarly a vote for Erap. But hey, can't a voter like me choose to vote for certain candidates for being who they are – what they personally stand for, their proven track record and their platforms – and not for whom they are affiliated with? Of course, I cannot deny that their party affiliation affected my choices. I, for one, personally believe that GMA cheated her way into the presidency three years ago, so any candidate who insists that she never cheated definitely suffered major minus pogi points for me. Heck, I refused to vote for her in 2004 just because she has better chances of beating FPJ and stuck it out with Roco because I believed back then that he’ll make a better President. So definitely, I hate the way being anti-GMA is equated with being pro-Erap. For being pro-Erap is definitely the last thing that I would ever be.
And how about the justices who are in charge of Estrada’s plunder trial, in whose hands the verdict lies and in effect the immediate future of our country as well? I personally don’t know much about them. But it’s really pathetic how this early, their decision is already doubted even if it has not been released yet just because one (or most) of them is banking on a huge promotion in the judiciary branch of our government. This early, regardless of the impartiality they may or may not show with their pending decision, their judgment is already tainted with black propaganda. Sour graping much in advance for the Estrada camp? So if they decide for a conviction, they did so because they wanted to please GMA (and get the promotion), but if they decide for acquittal, it means they were fair?
Personally, I think Erap is guilty. It’s not rocket science – how can he be innocent and genuinely pro-poor given the expensive mansions, endless stories of womanizing, drinking and gambling? And these days, his close allies are insisting that Erap is a changed man – spiritually most especially. Really now? If Erap was innocent and a good person from the beginning, what is there to change then? Couldn’t it be that guilt has finally sunk in? It really amazes me as to how the Estradas have convinced themselves that their family dynasty’s brand of leadership is the answer to this country’s problems. And they actually have the nerve to call foul over the Mahal Kita Pilipinas newspaper ads? Bato-bato sa langit, ang tamaan pikon.
If Erap gets convicted, for sure, GMA will milk the situation to gain popularity and redeem her reputation, like it’s even still possible. To GMA, this I have to say – you’re just on the same league as Estrada. The only difference being you make it seem that despite the extra-judicial killings, issues on cheating and jueteng payoffs, you are able to show how hard-working you are. Whether your efficient or not is another story. Like what Conrado de Quiros has said in his Inquirer column -- Free Erap? Just jail Gloria.
It takes an authentic servant leader to uplift the lives of the Filipino people. Unfortunately, the one we’re stuck with for the next three years is not exactly the best example. So is the one who’s on trial and claims to be so as well. Looks like we’re stuck with two evils for options. The only consolation is at least one is in jail already.

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I was supposed to join an essay-writing competition at school with the title here as the very same topic. But I wasn't able to finish organizing my thoughts on the matter, so I didn't push through with passing an entry. It turned out, on-the-spot contest pala siya, hehe. I finished it anyway, without the pressure of a competition, ehe. Hindi ako nag-mamarunong sa pulitika natin. But I am definitely not an ignoramus.

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