The Grey Chronicles


Now Showing: «Erap: The Presidential», Take Two?

Prosecuting Heads of StatesDrawn from an analysis of sixty-seven cases of former heads of state or government prosecuted for serious human rights or financial crimes since 1990, a book edited by Ellen L. Lutz & Caitlin Reiger, Prosecuting Heads of State examines the emergence of regional trends in Europe and Latin America; contains eight case studies of high-profile trials of former government leaders; and inquires into “the broader impact of justice.” The Preface, written by Lutz, states that the book “owes its origins to Ferdinand Marcos, former dictator of the Philippines and a tyrant who died with the blood of some ten thousand victims of torture, disappearance, and extrajudicial execution on his hands.”

“After President Ferdinand Marcos’s 1986 ouster and exile to Hawaii, no criminal indictment against him was issued on the technical grounds that while he was not on Philippine soil, he was beyond the reach of the law. The government of Corazon Aquino, however, refused to permit Marcos to return to the Philippines, even after he expressed willingness to face a Philippine jury. The closest Marcos came to prosecution was a civil suit filed against him in the United States for torture, disappearance, and extrajudicial execution during his dictatorship. Although the victims eventually won a $1.2 billion judgment, Marcos died long before the lawsuit was tried.” (Lutz & Reiger, 2009: 17)

Erap Estrada’s Mug Shot

Erap Estrada’s Mug Shot (PCIJ file photo)

Abby Wood (2009), writing its Chapter 6, highlights the case study on Joseph “Erap” Ejercito Estrada.

“Estrada’s defense rested its case in June 2007, and the Sandiganbayan handed down its decision three months later on September 12. It found Estrada guilty of plunder and acquitted him of perjury. He was sentenced to reclusion perpetua, or life imprisonment not to exceed forty years, and forfeiture of his illegally obtained assets.

“Instead of being taken to prison upon his conviction, Estrada was allowed to return to his rest house to await further orders. … Estrada’s lawyers filed an appeal soon after the conviction and entered into negotiations with Malacañang. Estrada never admitted to his crimes and was vocal about not being willing to accept a pardon that was not on his terms.

“On October 25, just six weeks after his conviction and two days after his attorneys withdrew his appeal, Arroyo granted Estrada executive clemency, restoring his civil and political rights in exchange for his agreement not to run for public office. She noted that he had already spent almost six and a half years under arrest and that she has a policy of releasing reclusion perpetua prisoners once they turn seventy years old, Estrada’s age at the time.” (Wood, 2009: 123) [Emphasis added.]

Wood points out the very short duration of forty-three days from conviction to pardon and observes that “After Estrada’s conviction, President Arroyo, then looking for a way to divert attention from one of her own corruption scandals delivered a pardon so swift that the result now feels like a return to corrupt politics as usual.” (Wood, 2009: 111). The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism’s iReport on 12 September 2007 featuring The Estrada Plunder Trial (2007) lists a litany of concessions which Jose Flaminiano, defense lawyer, argues: “Having been a president, he is imbued with a peculiar privilege, entitled to some degree of leniency.”

“[Estrada] never faced charges for human rights crimes, even though his administration engaged in a military campaign against Muslim separatists that led to the internal displacement of some 400,000 civilians and reports of human rights violations including extrajudicial executions, disappearances, and torture.” (Lutz & Reiger, 2009: 18)

Almost two years to the day after GMA granted him executive clemency, Estrada announced his 2010 Presidential bid on 21 October 2009 at a rally in Tondo with Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay as his running mate. Estrada said his new shot at the presidency would be “the last performance” of his life. From editorials, opinion columns, blogs, including Facebook and a lot of others in the print- and web-based national, regional and local news are having a field day. Willian M. Esposo, in his Philippine Star column: As I Wreck This Chair, writes:

“Convicted former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada was simply out to promote his 2010 presidential bid and not to encourage the unification of the Opposition. Only an idiot — a person who does not know the truth — would think that the Opposition could unite behind a one candidate for the 2010 presidential elections” (Esposo, 2009).

Many observers countered that this would likely to dilute opposition efforts to oust the ruling coalition (BusinessWorld, 2009), aside from creating constitutional controversies and legal debates. Moreover, Paolo Romero reports Malacañang Palace’s take of the situation:

A flood of lawsuits — mostly from the opposition — is expected to overwhelm former President Joseph Estrada’s attempt to return to Malacañang in 2010. … The legal challenges to Estrada’s running again for president are likely to come as soon as he files his certificate of candidacy with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) by end-November, Malacañang said. (Romero, 2009)

The Supreme Court denied on 21 October 2009 that Chief Justice Reynato Puno is endorsing the second presidential bid of Estrada (GMANews.TV, 2009). Furthermore, petition to disqualify Erap in 2010 polls has already been filed with the Comelec.

Erap’s Presidential bid in 2010 is simply not the case of Who Dares Win!


Mug shot photo of Joseph “Erap” Ejercito Estrada taken and re-sized from iReport: A PCIJ Special Feature.

BusinessWorld (2009). Erap confirms presidential bid, bares Senate slate. Manila: Publisher, 15 October 2009. back to text.

Esposo, William M. (2009). Erap is just a legend in his own mind now, As I Wreck This Chair. Manila: The Philippine Star, 20 October 2009. back to text.

GMANews.TV (2009). Chief Justice Puno denies giving OK to Erap’s presidential bid. Manila: GMA Network Inc., 22 October 2009. back to text.

Romero, Paolo (2009). Palace sees flood of lawsuits vs Erap. Manila: The Philippine Star, 23 October 2009. back to text.

Tiongson-Mayrina, Karen (2009). iReport: A PCIJ Special Feature: The Estrada Plunder Trial: Guilty! But Special Concessions For Accused Show Flawed System. Manila: Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism [PCIJ], 12 September 2007. back to text.

Wood, Abby (2009). Charm and Punishment: How the Philippines’ Leading Man Became Its Most Famous Prisoner, Prosecuting Heads of State. Lutz, Ellen L. & Reiger, Caitlin [eds.] Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2009. pp. 111—129. back to text.

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 LicenseDisclaimer: The posts herein do not necessarily represent any organization’s positions, strategies or opinions. Read the full version of self-imposed rules for this blog: A New Year; New Rules. Unless otherwise expressly stated, the posts are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.
Comments are moderated to keep the discussion relevant and civil. Readers are responsible for their own statements.


1 Comment »

  1. Until now, I don’t understand why Erap is third in the presidential surveys.

    Comment by numbmusique — 2010.April.20 @ 12:15 | Reply

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