FilAms denounce pardonBy Elton Lugay

By: Uitvaartverzekering.Es Uitvaart  11/05/2007
Keywords: philippines, Web Development, Internet

FILIPINO Americans bitterly criticized President Gloria Arroyo’s decision to pardon her disgraced predecessor Joseph Estrada despite his conviction for massive graft. “Her speedy granting of the pardon, just six weeks after the conviction of the Sandiganbayan seems suspect. Mrs. Arroyo herself has been plagued by scandals and criticism. I also just hope that Estrada’s pardon does not set a precedent that anyone, especially those who have wealth and some semblance of power, is above the rule of law,” said Odette Keeley, chief of staff of the New America Media network based in San Francisco.Arroyo pardoned the 70-year-old former movie star just six weeks after a special corruption court sentenced him to life imprisonment for stealing millions of dollars from the state’s coffers. She said this was part of a policy to free convicts aged 70 and for “national reconciliation.” “President Arroyo’s clemency of Joseph Estrada is a mockery of justice” said Perry Diaz, community leader from Sacramento. “The government spent millions of taxpayers’ money to prosecute Estrada. What is deplorable is that Estrada did not show any remorse for his crime and did not admit guilt.” Rudy Asercion of the San Francisco Veterans War Memorial Commission said, “The pardon merely confirmed to the sovereign Filipino people that their government condones large-scale corruption.”Filipinas Magazine publisher Greg Macabenta said he is “surprised” that the outrage is only being expressed now.“There is so much to be furious about, going back to the Macapagal Highway scam, the jueteng scandals, the Jose Pidal scandal, the way Chavit Singson was absolved of any violations of law, the last presidential elections, the Hello Garci scandal, the Joc-Joc Bolante caper, the extra-judicial killings, the recent farcical elections in Mindanao, the Lintang Bedol farce, the ZTE NBN bribery scandal and the many cases of graft and corruption swirling around the Ramos and Aquino presidency.” He added it is “unfortunate” that outrage is not sustained “long enough to see the culprits brought to justice.”In Manila, the anger was expressed by government prosecutors as well as in newspaper editorials.Many of them believe Arroyo’s decision was intended to divert attention from corruption allegations being leveled at her in congressional hearings and by the opposition. State prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio, who headed the team that achieved a conviction for Estrada, said they were looking into whether there was a possibility to go to the Supreme Court to question the granting of the pardon. “If we have enough materials (we will file) but for now we don’t have the basis to question the legality of the president’s grant of pardon,” he said. He criticized the granting of clemency, saying “there was no transparency, no extensive deliberations,” adding that his recommendations against a pardon were ignored. Lawyer Leonard De Vera, who headed a movement opposing a pardon for Estrada, chided Arroyo, saying the only reconciliation achieved was between the pro-Arroyo and pro-Estrada forces, not within the country as a whole. De Vera said there were thousands of poor people in prison who stole less than Estrada but who could not obtain pardons because they lacked political connections. The “Philippine Daily Inquirer” branded the pardon as “shameful capitulation,” remarking that Estrada had never shown remorse or admitted guilt in stealing more than 80 million dollars through insider trading and payoffs from gambling operators.

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