Bishop says Erap pardon could encourage more corruption

Ledesma said the presidential pardon was “a mockery of justice” after the Sandigan Bayan convicted Estrada of plunder and sentenced him to 40 years imprisonment.

“President Arroyo should have let Estrada serve at least a year of that sentence before granting him a presidential pardon. This is a bit too early and premature,” Ledesma said.

In granting the pardon, President Arroyo cited three reasons, namely; the advance age of Estrada who is 70 years old; the six years in detention of Estrada in his resthouse in Tanay, Rizal; and the former President’s assurance not to run for any elective office.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the decision of the Sandigan Bayan to forfeit all the “assets” of the former president will remain “in effect” except “for the bank accounts he owned before his tenure as president.”

Haj Abdullah Dalidig, chair of the National Movement of Free Elections in Lanao del Sur, does not like this provision of the presidential pardon.

“The government must get all the money stolen by Estrada while he was in office. Otherwise justice is not served,” he said.

Dalidig share Ledesma’s view that the pardon will encourage rather than deter government officials from engaging in corruption while they are in office.

Davao City Vice Mayor Sara Duterte has this to say: “I’m not a PGMA (President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) fan. Pardon is a president’s sole discretion. I can only guess on the decision. Maybe, its her guilt, knowing that her ascent to the Presidency in 2001 was questionable. And maybe she needs Estrada’s help now. Maybe, maybe, maybe.”

Carlos Isagani Zarate, secretary-general of the Union of Peoples’ Lawyers in Mindanao, said Estrada’s pardon “is one of the many continuing acts of bastardization of our justice system by this corrupt, illegitimate and repressive Arroyo administration. If GMA is really sincere, she should likewise order the release of political prisoners like Angelina Bisuna, a grandmother who is languishing in jail in Western Mindanao.”

For Father Roberto C. Layson, OMI, chair of the Oblates of Mary Immaculates’ Inter-Religious Dialogue and vice chair of the Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus, said “genuine reconciliation takes place when the offender admits his own offense, is repentant of it, himself asks for pardon and accepts some forms of punishment to meet the requirements of justice. I don’t know if all of these conditions were met.”

Abhoud Syed Lingga, executive director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies in Cotabato City, said “if Erap feels he’s not guilty, he should not have asked for presidential pardon.”

Father Dan Paciente, the parish priest of San Isidro in Musuan, Maramag town in Bukidnon said the pardon means only one thing: that only the poor in the country gets to be imprisoned.

“There was no clear basis to pardon Estrada. The struggle to oust him in 2001 has become a joke. The rich, not only the poor, should be put to jail,” said Rudy Aranjuez, president of the Davao City Water District Workers Union.

The wives of the detained soldiers and officers implicated in attempts to oust President Arroyo, see something sinister in the decision to pardon Estrada.

“The administration has to defuse the tense situation following the Glorietta bombing and the pay off to provincial governors. Blogs opposing against Arroyo is already mounting in the internet,” said Ghea Tenchavez of Koronadal City, wife of Army Scout Ranger 1st Lt. Homer Estolas, who is detained in an army camp in Tanay, Rizal.

She said the wives of the officers and soldiers have sensed that President Arroyo will pardon Estrada to divert public attention from the Glorietta bombing and pay off scandal.

There are others, however, who see that the pardon is “correct” in the spirit of reconciliation.

Davao City Councilor Leonardo Avila III said President Arroyo was only exercising her “presidential prerogative.”

“I hope it will be seen as sincere effort to show reconciliation or else it can be interpreted as mockery of justice,” Avila said.

“We praise President Arroyo for forgiving former President Estrada. It is in line with teachings of Islam to forgive those who erred,” said Aleem Mahmod Adilao of Davao City, the regional chair of the Ulama League of the Philippines.

Mayor Efren Pinol of Magpet in North Cotabato, said “kung talagang genuine ang intention ng pardon kay Erap, then yan ang kailangan ng bansa natin. Genuine reconciliation!”

Former Iligan City Mayor Franklin Quijano went further to say that the justice system in the country should be reviewed and reformed in the light of the pardon to Estrada.

“The spirit of reconciliation should not be limited to President Estrada alone. The entire country must undergo some healing to stop the cycle of violence,” he said.

Quijano said he is in favor of adopting the Lumad’s (indigenous peoples’) system of restorative justice than the present one which is “punitive and harsh.”

“We must follow the way of the Lumad. Their justice system brings no anger,” Quijano said.

The Lumads, however, have a different view on the matter.

“The two presidents are the same. Arroyo may have the feeling that her governance has no moral ascendancy and it might help to use Erap’s fanatics to back her up. As IP wala din man kaming mapala (As indigenous peoples, we gain nothing) from both of them, so it doesn’t make a difference,” lawyer Norma Gonos of the Manaday Tribal Professionals Association, said.

Datu Migketay Saway,Talaandig tribal leader in Lantapan town, Bukidnon said the presidential pardon will result to “ something good” for the country.

“ Kung alam ni Gloria na siya ay may pagkakasala din kailangan niyang matutong magpatawad,” Saway said. (Froilan Gallardo with reports from Walter Balane and Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)