It not an easy case to handle even for the most distinguished men of the law. Yet the government prosecutors, who have the most honest and truthful intentions to show that they will be unperturbed despite the threats in their lives, chose to burn the midnight oil and vowed they would fight it to the hilt. Many advocacy groups saw through the process, and ensured that no one gets in the way for an honest trial. Last September 12, the Philippines literally stopped [for at least 10 minutes] just to watch or listen to the proclamation of the verdict. However, even before the government prosecutors could say they could rest their case, and take a much-needed holiday, here comes another issue to contend.
Presidential pardon has been dangled even months before the verdict has been read by the Sandiganbayan. And now, it is openly spoon-fed to the Estrada camp, which finds it a welcome gesture, after all. Earlier, the Estrada camp staunchly stood up against pardon—declaring to the whole world that accepting the Presidential pardon is tantamount to admission of guilt by the deposed President. For some reasons, it has suddenly softened its stance.
What could have softened their position? We do not know. However, what is clear to us right now is the absolute pardon that the Arroyo Administration is offering to former President Estrada.
Definitely, if the former President will accept the [Absolute] Presidential Pardon offered by Malacañang, he regains his freedom and can exercise his political rights again. Does absolute pardon free the former President from the indemnity of the plunder case in which he was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt? That is contestable. Many law experts say otherwise. According to them, the civil indemnity should not be part of the pardon. If he would be freed from his civil indemnity, what does this tell us? Simply put, “A President can rob a bank, and gets away with his stash.”
Why is the Arroyo government so gung-ho about offering a presidential pardon, and absolute at that?
The Presidential pardon, while allowed by constitution, is so soon! The man has not even made to suffer the consequences, and yet we are pardoning him from his crimes? Did he show the entire country that he is worth the pardon! Compare it with an ordinary man who has shown remorse after languishing in jail for some loose change he took from his employer, takes years before a pardon could be given to him. While pardoning Estrada is also a welcome development for the sake of national unity and healing. However, does he show any form of remorse. Is that kind of law-breaker worthy of a pardon?
What is the bottom-line of this fiasco? Could it be about the Legitimacy of the Arroyo Administration? We know that the Estrada Camp and Fernando Poe supporters continue to question the legitimacy of the Arroyo administration. If Estrada accepts Presidential pardon, it is tantamount to succumbing to the present leadership; ergo, the Arroyo Administration is legal and legitimate.
However, the Arroyo Administration may be short-sighted in this case—putting off the possibility that this act would have a long-term negative impact to the country’s judicial system. The judicial system is already in shambles since time immemorial. Now that it has made a significant leap with the conviction of former president Estrada it is, again, put to a test. It becomes a precedent that any government official can commit plunder! After all, they can be pardoned and get away with their stash. This is terrifying!
The presidential pardon, which is SO SOON, does not exist in a vacuum. It would have a negative impact not only in the judicial system. If PGMA is boasting about the economic development that the country has gained, she should think twice. While the foreign and local investors may have lauded the Estrada verdict, they might also be having second thoughts again, and might eventually lose their confidence on the government. While she appeases the masses that support Estrada, she is also neglecting the middle and working classes, which want nothing but justice. She should remember that the middle and working class are the ones who brought Estrada to trial, which put her into her seat now, and lastly, she should not forget that the middle and working class are the ones making this country move forward.