Justice for Estrada?

There’s nothing new about the cases of ‘plunder of the exchequer’ in the Philippines, which has seen worst times in the past -- the Ferdinand Marcos era being fresh in everyone’s minds. Yet, as another former president, Joseph Estrada, is ordered into jail to serve a life term, the inescapable feeling is that politics in this nation of many islands remains a muddle.

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Published: Fri 14 Sep 2007, 9:40 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 1:04 AM

This verdict comes six years after Estrada was ousted from power by his political rivals with the backing of the army and the powerful Church; and, the last word is yet to be heard. The matter is bound to reach up to the apex court in appeal; and, for now, Estrada can buy time. Neither has he accepted the judgment, terming it a “political decision” taken at the behest of President Gloria Arroyo by a “kangaroo court”, nor has he given in to pleas to seek presidential pardon. Seeking pardon would mean admission of guilt, which he insists he doesn’t have any sense of. Politicians, by their very nature, do not make a clean breast of their past deeds, and would try best to stand their ground.

The two years that saw Estrada at the helm of affairs in the Philippines hadn’t been years of forward march, by any reckoning. He was first and last a leader of the common masses, and displayed little of administrative acumen. His days in the presidential palace are remembered more for the drunken dramas that took place there, if not for allegations of shady deals; something that proved to be his undoing. At the same time, feelings are also that the Church had conspired with the rich and the powerful to oust a popularly elected leader and frame him up in corruption cases. Without doubt, the poor in the Philippines had stood by him in those days. Under the circumstances, the real truth behind the allegations might never come out.

The judicial system’s credibility in respect of the Philippines is not very high, as it is known to cave in to pressure from the political elite. While admitting that every politician must atone for his sins, and the punishment thereof must be swift, that also presupposes that justice must be meted out. That, to Estrada, as well.

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