POSTSCRIPT / November 6, 2007 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Jinggoy floater testing water for Erap in 2010

HILARIOUS: Manong Ernie Maceda, one of the most astute politicians in captivity north of the Pasig, has not lost his sense of humor.

He had the town in stitches when he announced in Tondo over the weekend that the opposition might field Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and Makati Mayor Jojo Binay as its standard bearers in 2010.

The problem with such a hilarious announcement is that Jinggoy and Jojo (the “J-J Jokers” to their detractors) might just take it seriously and start posturing presidential and — yikes! — raising campaign funds.

Mercifully, the elder statesman of Polk Street — former/future president Joseph “Erap” Estrada — cut in to say that there are actually other presidential assets being considered, such as senators Mar Roxas, Loren Legarda and Ping Lacson.

He was probably somewhat uncertain, or it might be too early, to mention himself too.

* * *

TRIAL PITCH: One should know when to take the wily Manong Ernie seriously and when to see through his stratagem.

From where I sat in the bleachers, I saw Manong throwing an Estrada (not necessarily a Jinggoy) ball.

Expect more of such trial pitches aimed at assessing public reaction to an Estrada candidacy in 2010 — to be more specific, Erap Estrada himself running again for the office he gave up/lost in 2001.

You must have noticed that Erap lost no time in exercising his newly restored political rights by voting in the barangay election last week. Did his voting affirm his other right to be voted upon if he runs for president at the end of Ms Arroyo’s term?

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REELECTION: But then, is former President Estrada not barred from running again for president?

Section 4 of Article VII (Executive Department) of the Constitution says: “xxx The President shall not be eligible for any reelection. No person who has succeeded as President and has served as such for more than four years shall be qualified for election to the same office at any time.”

Those who want an Erap comeback will insist that if he runs in 2010, he will not be running for “reelection,” but merely “running again.” To them, reelection refers to an official running for the same post during his incumbency.

* * *

THE GAP: In the view of his supporters, there is a gap between Erap’s disrupted 1998-2004 term and the 2010 presidential election.

Therefore, he will not be running for reelection if he makes a bid for the presidency in 2010. He will just be “running again.”

A similar gap is a technicality used by other elective officials with term limits. When barred from running for reelection, they have their spouse or child hold the position for one intervening term then return to run again after the gap.

In the case of Erap, cannot Gloria Arroyo be considered as providing the same legal gap by holding the position in the interim?

* * *

QUID PRO QUO: When President Arroyo pardoned Erap, was she aware of the possibility of his possibly running in 2010? Of course she could not have been unaware of it.

In fact, with no stalwart within her party looming as a “trustworthy” successor, the pragmatist in President Arroyo may actually want Erap to run and win.

If Erap was already a spent political force by the time he was convicted of plunder on Sept. 12, 2007, President Arroyo would have had less motivation to be nice to him and grant him clemency.

That she pardoned him with alacrity could mean that she knew she was dealing with a political heavyweight who could be a potential ally.

A grateful Erap appears to be in the best position to help the Arroyos carry out their exit strategy. More so if he decides to run for president in 2010 and wins.

* * *

MINI-PROGRAM: He is too reticent to discuss it at length, but Erap actually has a ready short-term program for easing the country out of the mess where it now finds itself.

Drawing up this mini program with the help of experts in various fields was one of his preoccupations during his two years of detention, actually also a retreat, in his idyllic villa in the wooded hills of Tanay.

As he and his advisers worked on this program, he had the benefit of hindsight as well as ample time and minimal distraction (except for his plunder case that was a major family concern.).

In his conversations, Erap has been man enough to admit his errors in office. With that recognition, he would know how to avoid the same pitfalls if given a chance to serve a full term.

* * *

CONDITIONING: The man reason why there is disagreement over the cause and nature of the fatal explosion in the basement of Glorietta-2 in Makati is not technical.

The protracted debate between the Ayalas and the police is not rooted in the professional differences or competence of their respective investigators.

The chasm between the two sides arose because one theory — that it was a terrorist attack – took root in media and in the public mind without competing theories being able to challenge it early on.

Even without proof, the public was conditioned by media to think that the blast that killed 11 persons and injured more than 100 others was the handiwork of terrorists. (Terrorists here could be anarchists of the Al Qaeda type or government agents pursuing a political agenda.)

There was also the tantalizing, although unproved, story that a desperate administration plotted the blast to draw public attention from scandals bedeviling it.

By the time the police and the foreign experts assisting them reported that a mixture of methane gas and leaking diesel fumes triggered the explosion, not too many people were willing to absorb the official version.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 6, 2007)

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