POSTSCRIPT / December 10, 2000 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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First-day fumbling dogs prosecutors in Erap trial

WE feel sapped after going through two dreadful days of watching the prosecutors in the impeachment trial of President Estrada fumbling on the Senate floor after an impressive opening presentation.

The opening statements of the prosecution team led by House Minority Leader Feliciano Belmonte Jr. were clear, logical and so riveting that we had to hold ourselves from cheering in front of the TV.

The preview given by Rep. Joker Arroyo of Makati on corruption charges deserves special mention. Aided by computerized graphics, his presentation was throbbing with facts and documents and was so convincing that it sent many viewers concluding “Tapos na si Erap!” (Erap is finished!)

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BUT alas, the expectation waned somewhat as the congressman presenting former PNP Chief Roberto Lastimoso performed like a law student in his first mock trial. Adding to the disappointment was the initial confusion of some of the prosecutors and the desultory flow of the proceedings.

For a while, it seemed that former Chief Justice Andres Narvasa, head of the President’s defense team, could afford to sleep through the proceedings and leave to former Justice Minister Estelito Mendoza the job of keeping the prosecution at bay.

There was a little relief on the second day with the smooth presentation of witness Emma Lim on direct examination by Rep. Salacnib Baterina drawing the first link between jueteng payola collections and persons close to President Estrada, including his son San Juan Mayor Jinggoy Estrada.

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BY that time, some of the lawyers among the senator-judges could no longer resist the urge to speak out and salvage the embarrassing confusion over exhibits, procedure and even court facilities.

Some senators such as Rene Cayetano and Loren Legarda Leviste stood to pose questions that the prosecutors had failed to ask the witnesses. Others, notably Juan Ponce Enrile, Miriam Defensor Santiago and Raul Roco offered advice that presiding officer Chief Justice Hilario Davide took with grace.

The message hung heavy in the air: The prosecution must do its homework, if it does not want him whom Joker Arroyo called a bigger thief (than Marcos) to get away. Procedures also need some streamlining.

But the trial is just starting. Let’s give the prosecutors a chance to flex their legal minds that might have gathered dust during those years that they have been distracted by lawmaking and other activities outside regular lawyering.

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WHAT’S the score? Our card shows that Erap Estrada still enjoys an advantage, and may even win an acquittal — if, as we said in an earlier Postscript — the 22 senators who sit in judgment stick to their partisan prejudices.

We can see at this point only nine or 10 senators set to convict the President, with a dark foreboding that the five or six more senators needed for a two-thirds conviction vote may not materialize at the end of the trial.

In short, if the senators were to vote tomorrow, the prosecution in this game of numbers won’t be able to muster 15 or 16 votes — and Erap Estrada would go scot-free, laughing all the way to Boracay!

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MEANTIME, the results of our own survey among readers show that 4 percent of respondents say that President Estrada is leading the country forward. Some 52 percent say that he is leading us backward or downward, while 43 percent say he is not leading the country at all.

Majority (51 percent) of our respondents were writing from within the country, while the rest were readers living or working abroad. Most of the respondents were in the 36-40-year-old age bracket (21 percent). The males comprised 75 percent of the respondents.

Our simple survey is not the expensive, complicated Pulse Asia or SWS type. It is not even scientific. We simply asked readers to answer the question: Is President Estrada leading the nation (1) Forward, (2)Backward, (3) Sideward, (4) Upward or (5) Downward? Or (6) NOTA, or None Of The Above? The respondent was asked to give a very brief explanation.

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WE continue below the publication of the earlier responses. The many other respondents will have to wait till we have space.

Beck Felizardo, Manila: President Estrada is leading the nation downward because of his 3 KKK’s — Kaibigan, Kamag-anak at Kabit. In his inaugural speech he said “walang kaibigan at walang kamag-anak,” but he did not mention “walang kabit.” But now his “kabit” is worst because of the many mansions. The collapse of the nation is due to the lack of morally-based leadership.

Manuel Espaldon, Ayala Alabang: Backward. I closed down my business (and 200 people out of job as a result). The value of my life-long accumulated assets is reduced to half. Graft and corruption has devolved to the barangay level. (Check out how much it will cost you to get a barangay clearance of whatever sort). All these during the term of the halal ng bayan (hangal ng bayan or hangal ang bayan, whatever).

Raffy Lavilla, Beijing: Erap is trying very hard to move the country forward. The sad part, however, is that some quarters are trying equally just hard to stop him. They are afraid that if a dropout succeeds in putting the country on track it will be tantamount to proving that those people professing to be “intellectuals” are stupid. The rich are afraid that their land being occupied by squatters will never be reclaimed by them. Some quarters are afraid that the scam that they did when they were in power will be uncovered.

Dennis Bitoin, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Erap is leading us downward and/or backward. I wonder if he knows what forward means.

Robert Ocampo, Tokyo: Downwards. Economy is down/no smile, but frown/the moral is low/and I bet you know/things just gonna bring tears and sorrow/if Erap does not go.

Jett E Aviñante, Ayala Alabang: I choose NOTA (None Of The Above), because I don’t think President Estrada is leading the nation at all. Although he is bringing a lot of his followers to the path of moral decay.

Jeng Dizon, Ateneo de Manila University, QC: NOTA. Erap is not leading the country anywhere because he would have to be a leader to do that. He is not a leader but an over-aged actor pretending to be one. He is a symbol of how backwards and parochial the Philippines is. If any good would come out of this, it would be for all Filipinos to stop looking outside of themselves for redemption. When this happens, I might just change my mind about leaving this country for good.

Ramil Cabrera, Chicago: Erap is leading our nation backward back to the times of Marcos. There are eerie similarities on what’s going on and his style of governance and the people behind him (plus the rejects of previous administrations).

Nick Aromin, edsamail: The President is leading the nation backward, to oblivion, to disaster, to chaos, to extinction, to immorality, to more lies.

E. J. Saguil, New Jersey: To make a choice whether JEE is leading the Philippines forward or backwards, or any which way, is to imply that he has, is and will be doing something. JEE has not done anything remotely good for the country as a mayor, senator, vice president or president. What JEE has done is for JEE et al.

Eric C, UCLA, California: NOTA He’s leading us to perdition.

Rene Marquez, Las Vegas, Nevada: My answer should be NOTA, but then, the way Erap is leading our country, it is a little forward sometimes, once in a while upward and downward, and most of the time backward. So I suggest that to have more choices by respondents you should add All Of The Above. When Erap became president, he made every Filipino look like a drunk not knowing where he’s headed.

Wesner R. Almin Jr., Evolium, Japan: NOTA. He is not leading his people at all. He is misleading us all along and our people still find him amusing, just like when he was an actor.

Felizardo Mangubat, Planters Bank: Erap is pulling the nation downward.

Ngespiritu, using aol address: Erap is not leading any nation anywhere. Inside his cerebrum you might find some brilliant mahjong tactics but nowhere will you find a blueprint for leading this country out of the morass it is in. He is an embarrassment to his office.

Jake Jimenez, sms.globe: Bakward cz r cantry s now divided into those who can see & those who r blind.

Josibell, pacificnet: Downward. He is campaigning for a class war. His life is scandalous to our youth. One of the thrusts of education is values formation. With this kind of president, the task of inculcating in our youth good moral values would be difficult. It is truly very sad that a man like Mr. Estrada got elected as president.

Ernie Basilio, Hong Kong: We are extremely unfortunate and it is unfair to us here abroad, that we OCWs are likened to our disgraced President. He should resign to show the world we are not stupid and immoral.

Jes Dorado, Asian Development Bank: Backward. Since his assumption to office, the poor have been getting poorer.

Honorato M. Gutierrez, Ermita, Manila: Backward. The Philippines is retrogressing economically and morally.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 10, 2000)

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