A pardon for Joseph Estrada?
The latest infamy in Philippine politics
MANILA: A few hours after an anti-graft court convicted former President Joseph Estrada of plunder, officials of the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo were already talking about the possibility of a pardon.A pardon for Estrada would be a disgrace, but if I were to place a bet, it would be that the former Philippine President gets one. What a sad state of affairs Philippine politics is. Most of the country's citizens live in poverty, and their elected officials rob them blind. Then get ready to pardon those few crooks who get caught.
The officials said a pardon for Estrada, who was sentenced Sept. 11 to a maximum of 40 years in prison for receiving payoffs and kickbacks before his ouster from office, could heal the nation. "Why not?" Sergio Apostol, Arroyo's chief legal adviser, said of a pardon on the day of the verdict.
Over the weekend, Arroyo made it known through her advisers that she was indeed considering a pardon. "I'm hoping that we can do it before Christmas," Ronaldo Puno, a political adviser to Arroyo, told reporters Sunday.
But not everyone in the Philippines welcomes the possibility of a pardon. Some are concerned that it could send the wrong signal and offset what was gained with Estrada's conviction: a strong message that the Philippine justice system does catch up with powerful lawbreakers.
"What could ever justify granting amnesty or pardon to one who shamelessly feasted on power and greed?" 15 private lawyers who assisted in Estrada's prosecution asked in a statement issued last week. "What message shall that send to those who wield power now and in the future?"
Estrada, a former movie actor who became president in 1998 and was driven out of power in a military-backed civilian uprising in 2001, is still hugely popular and remains a potent force within the political opposition.
The only reason I see for Arroyo to grant a pardon, is that she has committed her own crimes. She is hoping the next President will show Arroyo mercy, if first she pardons Estrada.
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