POSTSCRIPT / February 22, 2001 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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45% ‘can forgive’ Erap under certain conditions

FORMER congressman Dante Tinga sent us a note yesterday denying he is the choice of the oil companies for the vacant Cabinet post of Energy Secretary. We’ll use it on Tuesday, but we quote for today one key paragraph:

“On my parents’ grave, I dare vouch that I am not beholden to the Big 3 nor do they have a hold on me. Let whoever has any shred of evidence against me come out in the open. In that way, the dirty and expensive demolition job launched against me by conspirators salivating for the position shall come to pass.”

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MEANTIME, don’t get dismayed by the latest orders of the Supreme Court for Ombudsman Aniano Desierto to shut up and refrain from filing criminal charges against former President Estrada in the next 30 days.

The tribunal is just doing its ordained job of interpreting the law and looking after the rights of persons seeking its protection. Note that it is not ruling on evidence before the Ombudsman, but is just applying the law.

We also see the high court trying to project an air of fairness and objectivity, thereby preparing the public mind to accept and respect its impending decision on a matter of such historic impact.

The justices are pretending not to have been reading newspapers, listening to the radio and watching TV, and privately talking with acquaintances on the Estrada case pending before them.

Take heart. In the end, as you will see soon, the Supreme Court will live up to our expectation as the fount of justice and equity.

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NEWS on the battle royal in the high court could be boring. Like yesterday, a headline bannered the dubious claim that we have now two presidents, one a President-on-Leave and another an Acting President.

As Postscript readers would recall, we reported that apparent situation a month ago, on Jan. 20 to be exact, the day after Edsa II installed President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on the heels of what this observer called the “constructive resignation” of Joseph Ejercito Estrada based on his words and acts construed in their political context at the time.

Whatever legal theory the lawyer of Erap pulls from his hat, however, it will not happen — we promise — that Jose Velarde will slink back to the Palace and inflict his unwanted presidency on us.

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WHILE you’re guessing how the Supreme Court justices would vote on Erap’s claim to the presidency, we throw you some interesting numbers on our latest survey on the people’s possibly forgiving Erap if he met certain conditions.

Recall that when we asked in a recent survey if readers would allow Erap to go on exile, a wimpy Yes was delivered by only 5 percent of respondents. When afterwards we asked if they believed that Erap’s wanting to go abroad was because of his need for eye treatment, only 3.7 percent said Yes.

With that background, we were surprised by the early responses to the survey question we posed the other day: Can you forgive Erap if he returns all the money he stole, admits his crime, and makes a televised public apology to the Filipino people?

A booming 45 percent of respondents chorused Yes, although a number tacked on more conditions. Now, this is interesting!

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HERE are some of the early responses to “Can you forgive…?”:

Fritzie Vergara, Malate: Yes. But Erap has to do all three. Nothing less. Once these are done, the Filipino people can extend their hand of acceptance by sparing his life. Our healing process must begin and we should not start with blood in our hands.

Roger J. Carreon, Canada: If I raped your daughter, ask public apology, pay you compensation (big time), will you pardon me? Those are people’s (70 million, plus generations still not conceived) money. Apology? Jail him. He asked for it.

JakeBotardo, California: No, no way Jose. Hard enough to know how much he stole, it’s impossible to compute how much he will return.

Dennis Codina, San Diego, CA: Yes, if all of the conditionalities are met! So that by his admission he will have shown his blind followers that crime does not pay. So that the prosecutors can use this confession against him, his indictment shall be over with, he will be found guilty, sentenced, and so he may RIP!

Rodolfo Fermin, Denver, Colorado: Yes, but… Forgiveness should come after justice has been served. All criminals deserve to be punished. Forgiveness will come when we see that the sinner is repentant. Then and only then.

Niña Araneta, Ateneo Law School, Makati: Yes. If he does it behind bars.

Felixberto Cana, Quezon City: Yes. The problem is, we have to strictly determine how much he stole and what crimes he committed. Gambling is a simple problem. How about smuggling? Especially drugs!

Nestor Roferos, US: If every crook caught and convicted asks for forgiveness and is pardoned, then the spirit of the law is defeated, that is to deter future evil-doers.

Elvie Magpayo,, US: Sure, we forgive Erap if he returns all the money he stole and apologizes, but he still needs to be prosecuted and jailed or punished. No way we let Jose get away.

Lea Lara, Iloilo: Yes. But he should stay in jail first without conjugal visit and GMA could pardon him a month before 2004 presidential election.

Isaac S. Limosnero Jr., Saudi Arabia: It’s not a matter of apology and returning the money. What he has done was a betrayal of the people’s trust. There should be justice first before reconciliation. He should be prosecuted and if convicted he has to go to jail and his ill-gotten wealth sequestered.

Antonio Cruz, Navotas: If he returns what he stole, still he should be put in jail if found guilty. Let the wheels of justice prevail. This will give a big boost to our justice system, against corrupt government officials and politicians!

Lawrence L. Reyes, FrontierSystems, US: Easier said than done. It’s not going to happen.

Paul Dalde, Houston, TX: GMA should make a political statement that crime does not pay. As plunder is mind-boggling, pardon should not be considered. Erap has to pay for his crime. It may not be lethal injection, but at least life in prison is good for his soul, plenty of time to become a repentant sinner.

C. Javier, Cleveland, Ohio: No. When we’re talking about P20 billion or more allegedly plundered within two years of his presidency, this monumental crime is unpardonable. It’s time the Philippines showed to the world that it is democratic enough to punish small and big time criminals and that “crime doesn’t pay.”

Marlene Canda Smith So, Amboy, New Jersey: I can forgive Estrada but it does not mean that he will be free from punishment. Even if he returns all the stolen money and apologizes to the Filipino people, he has to spend his years in the big house with his fellow criminals.

J.T. Llacuna Jr., Quezon City: Forgiveness is the most Christian thing to do. However, one must not equate forgiveness with justice. Let the man take all the punishments due him under our laws.

Joel Fernandez, Antipolo: I will not forgive Erap even if he returns all that money, admits his crimes and makes a public apology. I would forgive him if he is willing to go to jail. There is the dangerous notion that when public officials steal, it is okay as long as they apologize and return the money. What if they were not caught?

Jack Asug, San Diego, CA: Why should we give up the opportunity to show the world that in the Philippines, no one is above the law? Punishing Mr. Estrada will deter other officials who want to follow in his footsteps.

Ched Arzadon, Dagupan: God forgives us because His Son paid the penalty of our sin through His death. Forgiveness is really that costly. If Erap sincerely seeks God’s forgiveness, he will receive it courtesy of Calvary. But if Erap seeks forgiveness from the people, he should also be willing to pay the cost — he must return the money and go to prison.

Intax, Sydney, Australia: Can you give back the life of Bobby Dacer? And Bentain? What about the hardships and difficulties of our beloved kababayans, especially those who had placed their hopes on Erap’s alleviating their misery while he was indulging? He must not be forgiven!

Delia Costner: Why should we give up the opportunity to show the world that in the Philippines, no one is above the law? Punishing Mr. Estrada is necessary in rebuilding our image and it will deter others who want to follow in his footsteps.

Marvin Ramos: Despite what he has done to his/our country, he still deserves “true forgiveness” from his countrymen. But forgiveness comes after facing his punishment from the law.

Randy Mestiola, Adamson U, Manila: Yes, only after the punishment. But I’m sure Erap will not do that. To be an action hero who suffers in the end is completely out. After all, how can he live without the billions?

P. A. Meneses, San Juan: Yes, but we should not forget. As a people, we should not make forgiveness so lull our hearts into complacency as to forget the wrongs of history — or we are condemned to repeat them. But then, will Estrada muster enough guts to own up to his crimes, sincerely ask for forgiveness and, shucks, let go of his billions?

Ben Gutierrez: No. He should be convicted, punished and hung by the balls, if he has any. The government should confiscate all his ill-gotten wealth. This act alone will redeem the credibility of this government.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 22, 2001)

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