Erap and “the last performance of his life” 

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Lest I be accused of partisan politics or, worst, charged with electioneering for premature campaigning, I will begin this short piece with a disclaimer:  this is NOT an endorsement of former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada“.

Erap was elected president in 1998 and ousted in 2001 by a people power uprising called “EDSA Dos” (or EDSA-2).  He was charged with plunder and spent 6 years in detention before he was finally convicted by the Sandiganbayan.  He never admitted guilt but sought and was granted presidential pardon by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.  His wife Luisa and son Jinggoy were elected senators while he was in detention, attesting to his enduring popularity among a segment of the electorate. 

In what was billed as “the last performance of my life”, Erap formally announced last October 21 in Tondo, Manila, that he is running for president in the May 2010 elections.  The announcement elicited days of critical comments from many newspaper columnists and broadcast commentators, ranging from downright “character assassination” to the more sober observation that he is running for the wrong reason: “to redeem himself”.  Let’s make a quick objective review of his electoral intention.

Of all the presidential wannabes, so far, Erap is probably the most pressured and motivated to prove himself and disprove his detractors, hence open to radical but popular reforms.  That is not to say the other presidentiables are not reform-oriented.  Some people quickly dismissed as “too late” his desire to “redeem himself”,  yet our Christian values tell us otherwise.  At age 72, Erap cannot be faulted for taking what may be his last chance at presenting his case before the electorate in the hope that he will be vindicated.

And then there is the still unresolved constitutional question of whether or not Erap is qualified to run again for president.  Section 4 of Article VII of the Constitution provides:  “No President shall be eligible for any re-election.”  Many say he cannot run again, given our single-term presidency.  His lawyers however assure him he still can because he did not serve his 6-year term of office in full.  Malacañang recently pronounced the government wll not move to disqualify Erap, but some lawyers or interest groups are anticipated to question his constitutional and legal qualifications before the Commission on Elections the moment Erap files his certificate of candidacy.

Assuming he is qualified, Erap will run under the opposition political party Partido ng Masang Pilipino (or PMP) and will have no control over government machinery and funds.  He is also lagging behind in the recent polls. 

 Must we be afraid of Erap?  Are we worried he might win again?  Let him run and place our trust in the better judgement of the electorate.  Let us resolve and put to rest, once and for all, the nagging and divisive questions of EDSA Dos.

Author:  Rene “RC” Catacutan
Published 05 November 2009