POSTSCRIPT / December 5, 2000 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Erap disowns mansions, but protects them. Why?

PRESIDENT Estrada has impliedly admitted ownership or control of the mansions linked to his mistresses by objecting, through counsel, to the inspection of these plush residences by agents of the impeachment court (Senate).

If the mansions are not his or that of his other families, why is he objecting? Inspection should be none of his business.

How come until this late date no other person has stepped forward to claim ownership of the mansions, object to their public scrutiny and their identification with Mr. Estrada and his mistresses?

* * *

THE impeachment tribunal shot down yesterday the prosecution’s motion to have the mansions inspected now. The prosecution appeared to have lost a point, but the same motion that was deemed premature can be filed at the right time later.

The fact is that not a single piece of evidence has been submitted to the tribunal (Senate). This makes premature the proposed examination of such specific pieces of evidence as the mansions.

Nevertheless, the prosecution succeeded in eliciting an admission from the Estrada camp, although only impliedly, that the mansions are owned or at least under the control and protection of Mr. Estrada.

Such implication may have no probative value, but it firms up the widespread belief that Mr. Estrada built the mansions for his mistresses and his other families.

* * *

ANOTHER point that has propaganda implications is the announced objection of the lawyers of President Estrada to his personally testifying in the impeachment trial.

His high-powered panel of lawyers may be able to pile up legal arguments and succeed in preventing Mr. Estrada’s being called to the witness stand.

But then again, the President’s hiding under the toga of his lawyers may not sit well with the expectant public. We have been repeatedly assured by Mr. Estrada himself that he would personally answer point-by-point the impeachment charges.

* * *

WHEN the President refuses to take the witness stand, this question will echo all over the islands and beyond: If he is indeed innocent, as he has claimed, why is Mr. Estrada afraid to face his accusers?

And the answer to that question, we think, is that President Estrada is either (1) guilty as charged, or (2) his own lawyers do not trust him to be able to stick to a scripted false testimony.

* * *

IT seems from the latest opinion survey that Malacañang has succeeded to some extent in brainwashing the public that impeachment is the only constitutionally acceptable means of removing or changing the President outside the regular electoral process.

The last survey of Pulse Asia reportedly showed that at least 75 percent of Metro Manila residents prefer the impeachment trial to outright resignation when they agreed, in reply to a question, that “constitutional processes should be followed in trying to remove” the President.

Only one out of every 10 respondents were reported as favoring resignation ahead of the impeachment trial. Another 10 percent said they were undecided.

We are alarmed to note that three out of every four Metro Manila residents, who are supposed to be better informed, seem to think that impeachment is the only constitutional option for removing the President.

It’s tragic, but persistent propaganda saw to it that most Filipinos are kept ignorant of the fact that resignation is also an acceptable exit route under the Constitution.

* * *

ANOTHER emerging public opinion, also shaped by Malacañang propaganda, is that Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is unfit to become president in case the incumbent is removed.

The corollary to this conclusion is that it would not be wise to remove President Estrada and have the Vice President take his place. A negative image of Arroyo is being translated into a positive vote for keeping Mr. Estrada.

Palace propagandists are in the midst of brainwashing the public to think that Arroyo is in cahoots with the communists, has been receiving jueteng payola, and is not any better than Mr. Estrada!

* * *

THE impeachment trial is a more manageable and predictable game than the parallel program of brainwashing the public into accepting an acquittal (yes, acquittal!) of the President.

Although colored by partisan politics, the trial is still largely a legal process governed by set rules of procedure. Veteran lawyers often can guess how motions and pieces of evidence would be appreciated by the trial judges.

But the propaganda war, which is a highlight of the political warfare raging in our midst, is virtually a no-holds-barred affair. There are practically no rules of engagement, with the end generally justifying the means.

Malacañang has the superior propaganda machine. The opposition seems to depend largely on street marches that often fall short of desired goals. Once the President’s men win the propaganda war, the legal war — the impeachment trial — would be more easily manipulated to deliver an acquittal.

* * *

OUR mailbox is clogged with responses to our survey on how President Estrada has been leading the nation. But we have decided to hold the announcement of the results to enable more readers to catch up and send us their responses.

The survey question: Is President Estrada leading the nation (1)Forward, (2) Backward, (3) Sideward, (4) Upward or (4) Downward? or (5) NOTA, or None Of The Above?

Please choose only one of the five answers above. Add your (a) very brief explanation, plus your personal circumstances of (b) age, (c) sex and (d) location.

Kindly use your original email address issued by your Internet Service Provider (ISP). We may disregard responses sent via secondary email addresses provided by yahoo, hotmail, excite, lycos and other Internet search engines. And please, no attachments.

* * *

ONE reader, Aida Aguas emailing from the US, asked why we are not counting responses sent via secondary email addresses supplied by such popular Internet search engines as yahoo and hotmail.

You see, we’ve been burned a number of times by fictitious writers or those hiding behind false names using secondary addresses. When we get into trouble because of what they had written, we find it difficult tracing them.

Also, we’ve noticed that the administration has organized phone, letter-writing and email brigades that swamp pollsters with their organized responses to influence the poll results.

* * *

WE don’t have the facility for tracing individuals using secondary addresses such as yahoo and hotmail. Those registered with ISPs are easier to trace and identify if they cause any harm.

The prejudice, if we may call it that, is not against free email addresses per se, but against individuals using coded names and who are very difficult to trace and identify because they hide behind secondary addresses.

But while we are generally leery of coded names using yahoo and hotmail addresses, there are individuals who have been using secondary addresses but have given us their identities on our promise to protect them from reprisals.

* * *

LIKE there is one reader, a parent of a Montesorri pupil who has requested anonymity, who shared with us this information:

“A red F-150 belonging to Rep. Ralph Recto who a month ago bolted out of LAMP and who, together with his actress wife turned politician Mayor Vilma Santos, is demanding the resignation of President Estrada, is still sporting the long-expired and infamous ERAP Millennium license plates.

“The truck with plate number RYN 999 (as seen from the back) takes his son by Vilma Santos (named Ryan Christian) to Philippine Montessori Center in White Plains, Quezon City, on school days.

“This congressman is having the best of both worlds: trashing the President and penetrating Vice President Arroyo’s inner circle while taking advantage of the ERAP plate for traffic violation immunity! Talk about hypocrisy!”

* * *

CHIEF Justice Hilario Davide, who presides over the impeachment trial, clarified yesterday that the senators are not jurors in the sense of the American jury system but are actually judges.

Point well taken. We understand that the distinction was made to point out at least that while jurors in the US system do not ask questions but merely sit and listen, our senators are free to question witnesses and the counsel of both sides.

But whatever we call them, our senators and even the general public are, in a broader sense, both jurors and judges in this highly politicized process.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 5, 2000)

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