In a move that had been widely predicted, a few weeks after the courts found ex President Estrada guilty of plunder, he has been pardoned in exchange for recognizing the legitimacy of the present president, Gloria Arroyo.
For those not familiar with the story, Estrada, a populist ex actor, was elected to be president. The usual shennanigans went on, and eventually it got too much for the ruling class, so they devised a “people power 2″ revolution that led to his resignation.
Unlike the first “people power” revolt, which overthrew Marcos, this was not as widely supported by a cross section of the people, but enough knew Estrada was corrupt and incompetent, so it succeeded.
He then was charged and a couple weeks ago convicted of plunder.
At this point, everyone held their breath, since Estrada still has wide support among the lower classes. But Estrada seemed more worried about his ailing 101 year old mother than with trying to grab power, first said he would fight the conviction to clear his name, but now has accepted the pardon.
Since Estrada left office, Arroyo herself has been implicated in many scandals, but despite people being upset about the good, the bad, and the corruption as usual, there isn’t much enthusiasm for another revolution.
Granting Estrada was good politics: it essentially removes him from being able to run again for office, but will keep him out of jail (he has been under house arrest during the trial.). It also sends a message to the public that graft and corruption will be forgiven if you are a big shot, but then the farmers and workers up here in the north figure that all politicians are corrupt, and they resented that their hero was going to be the only one punished for such a common crime.
Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the northern Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.