POSTSCRIPT / February 1, 2001 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Survey: 92% of readers oppose exile for Estrada

OUR mailbox has been clogged with responses, with more pouring in, expressing vehement opposition to a proposal to exile deposed President Estrada. Majority of respondents want him to personally face charges, preferably while locked up in jail.

The question posed to readers was “Are you in favor of having former President Estrada go on exile while the cases against him are being prosecuted? Why?

As of noon yesterday, it was 92 percent “No” (to exile), and 8 percent to “Yes.”

The respondents were dominated by males (78 percent), and those aged 51-55 years (21 percent), 31-35 (16 percent), 46-50 (16 percent) and 66-70 (16 percent).

While readers in the Philippines were still asleep, emailed responses were already coming in from abroad, because the PhilStar online edition is already available worldwide by midnight. First respondent was Del Burgos, 54, of San Jose, California, whose email came at 2 a.m. Tuesday, several hours before the paper hit the street in Manila!

Those writing from the United States comprised 42 percent of respondents, compared to 45 percent from the Philippines. Respondents from other countries (United Kingdom, Canada, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia) made up 13 percent.

We will update our report this Sunday. Meantime, we reprint some of the responses toward the end of this Postscript.

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THE Arroyo administration, meanwhile, is likely to be sucked into controversies bedeviling the Philippine Communications Satellite Corp. (Philcomsat), a cash cow being milked by certain interests, allegedly including some government representatives on the board.

The latest scandal rocking Philcomsat is its acquisition, on the mere say-so of its Executive Committee, of 65,737 sqm. of raw land in Las Piñas from Antonio Araneta, a first cousin of ExCom and board member Benito Araneta. With him in the ExCom are Nieto, and some appointees of deposed President Estrada.

Since real estate is not a primary business of Philcomsat, the deal should have been submitted to the board and to the stockholders for approval. It was not.

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THE ExCom moved to acquire the land by merging Philcomsat with Ansear Realty and Development Corp., a firm of Antonio Araneta, and later dissolving the union with Philcomsat surviving and ending up owning the land originally held by Ansear.

It was a complicated process that involved Philcomsat giving an interest-free P265-million loan to Araneta to enable him to boost the capitalization of Ansear from its original authorized capital stock of P20 million to P200 million.

At the agreed valuation of P11,500 per sqm. (a price that is being questioned), the land would have a total price of P755,975,500, the amount Philcomsat would have paid had it bought the property directly.

But by going into the rigmarole of a short-lived merger with the seller, the resulting total cost to Philcomsat ran up to as much as P873,651,879, according to one analysis. Why did Nieto and the ExCom prefer to spend more at a time when the firm is financially down?

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THE government cannot avoid getting embroiled in the controversy because it has a 35-percent stake in Philcomsat, were it holds four of the nine board seats.

Private stockholders are distressed over the continuing financial deterioration and what they call the plunder at the once robust telecommunications giant. It has been running operating losses the past three years.

Paralysis is also feared in view of the dispute of Nieto, 85, with some board members he refuses to recognize and his freezing of some bank accounts.

With information technology a priority of President Arroyo, stockholders are hoping she would replace Estrada nominees on the board and move to rejuvenate the ailing firm that used to be a top money-maker.

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BACK to our poll survey on a proposal to exile former President Estrada… here are some of the early responses:

Del Burgos, San Jose, CA: Exile must not be an option of Joseph Estrada. He committed crimes and as such he must be punished. Exile him to the leper colony in Culion, Palawan — Yes!

Tony Reyes, Everett, Washington: Sending him to exile is, as your column aptly describes it, like “tossing a turtle into the water.” He should remain in the country to face the criminal charges against him. If found guilty, he should be punished to the full extent of the law. His punishment will serve as a reminder that the presidency is not a “financial” entity where one can get super rich through illegal means and get away with it.

EdnTessLopez, This idea is just ludicrous. Are we about to make the same mistake again? When do we learn? After the Marcos disaster era, people would think that we’re now a little wiser, a little smarter. Then this idea of giving Erap an option just makes me want to vomit. Come on! Jail is where that crook belongs, nowhere else.

Eric C., Exiling him will delay the trial since permission from the host country must be taken. Giving him this option is giving him a VIP treatment and is a bad precedent. Moreover, it might be necessary that in the trial he has to testify personally. If convicted, which is likely to happen, he might not come back to serve his sentence, especially if the host country doesn’t have an extradition treaty with the Philippines.

Ilving Tabios-Zamora, Redlands, CA: Absolutely not! More important than the ouster of the Estrada Gangster Clique is their prosecution and ultimate punishment. The very reason of Edsa II is the people’s contempt of graft and corruption. Let Estrada and his confederates serve as an example for our people and future generations. Their punishment is the only way we can rectify our damaged culture. And this might be our last chance. Future calls for people power will be unanswered if we don’t act now.

Paul Dalde, Texas, US: If Estrada is ever exiled, my suggestion is internal exile. All his families, including mistresses, should be relocated to Basilan for easy containment. If needed to testify in his cases, it would be easy to pluck him by helicopter and place him before the hearing court.

Greg Alabado, Chula Vista, CA: To permit Erap to go on exile will be to send the wrong signal that it’s OK to engage in corruption and cause the decline of the country’s economic well-being. Right or wrong, exile for Erap can be construed as letting go of the guy.

Conrad G. Javier, USA: No. Besides, Mr. Estrada himself doesn’t want to go away. Greenhills inside his bailiwick of San Juan is his Shangrila. It is unlawful to force him into exile unless it is a form of punishment after he is found guilty of a pardonable crime. For a bigger crime, house arrest, as courtesy to a former president, or imprisonment, with all the amenities that go with a VIP politician (Philippine style) could be enforced.

Nimfa C. Tangcuangco, Vista Verde, Cainta: No one (even an ex-President) should be above the law and the graceful exit that was accorded him was most unfair to lesser citizens out there who are immediately arrested for merely snatching a bag. He should have been arrested that Saturday he left Malacañang. If he were not convicted, then Edsa II would all be in vain. If we exile him as we did Marcos in 1986, then we would only be repeating the mistakes we committed these past 15 years. The people at Edsa 2 are crying for justice; exiling him won’t satisfy that cry at all.

Herman Sumadchat, Legaspi Village, Makati: No. Allowing Erap exile is like telling corrupt government officials that it is okay to plunder the country provided they leave if and when they are caught. This is the primary reason why we still have with us the Marcoses and their cohorts traipsing in the corridors of power. Erap and all his gang should be tried by a special court with the proceedings aired just like in his impeachment. Trial should be done everyday and if possible, finished in 60 days. If Chief Justice Hilario Davide can handle the case, so much the better. If Erap is tried in absentia and found guilty, exile will only allow Erap to enjoy his loot specially if he were to go to a country without extradition treaty with the Philippines. Exile is an open invitation to People Power III.

Jack Asug, San Diego, CA: It is quite troubling that Mr. Estrada is being given a choice to leave, which is a complete contradiction on what the citizenry wants. I wonder what is really the reason why the new administration keeps mentioning this option? If one of the reasons is to ensure stability, it is worth mentioning that keeping Mr. Estrada within our territory and punishing him for what he did, this would make our country more stable, for it will send a strong signal to the world that Filipinos will not tolerate tyranny and corruption. This would also show that the new president couldn’t be intimidated that easily.

Conrado de Lara, Carmel II Subd., Bahay Toro, Q.C.: No. We would be repeating our mistake in Edsa I. This could be a fatal blow to our fight against graft and corruption. A scotfree Estrada will be perceived as “lutong-macau,” “nagkayarian na naman.” It is clear from the statements and demeanor of President Arroyo and her executive secretary that a deal was made to let Estrada go free. In politics, perception (majority anyway) is gospel truth.

Maria Lourdes Velez, New York: Estrada should be prosecuted and his illegal billions turned over to our bankrupt government. It’s the only right thing to do. He won’t be a threat at all, with his cronies coming out to sing the blues. Exile? He might take up acting lessons and come back a better actor with foreign credentials! The church favors exile in the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation probably. But what’s Pimentel’s motivation?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 1, 2001)

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