After JOSEPH "Erap" ESTRADA was convicted of plunder by a handpicked trio of judges in the Sandiganbayan (which had never before, or since been done) most people were surprised when President Gloria Arroyo swiftly pardoned him.
At the time, the general concensus was that the President did not think it possible to allow the process to proceed any further, for example, for Erap to actually be jailed in Bilibid Prison. It was said to be simply unthinkable and politically untenable because of the strong support that Erap had and still does have from a very significant fraction of the population, especially but not exclusively amongst the poor.
I never quite bought this justification. I always believed that Erap would've done what his lawyer, Rene Saguisag was saying he would do and bring the case up for review by the Supreme Court, which would've forced a full threshing out of what really happened at Edsa Dos, and specifically the actions of former Chief Justice Hilario Davide. Years after the event, the illegal and unconstitutional nature of his acts on 20 January 2001 (swearing in GMA, aborting the impeachment trial that was sure to ACQUIT the accused, and plotting that coup d'etat with Angelo Reyes and GMA) are as clear as day to most careful observers and even supporters of Edsa Dos. Preventing such a Supreme Court case re-examining all this to affirm the plunder conviction--I was convinced--was GMA's real reason for pardoning Erap.
I now think this was only a small part of her motivation for pardoning Erap because even by then SCoRP could've been relied upon to once more save themselves from self-incrimination.
I now think that the real reason is a more far-reaching vision of her own personal political fortunes. I believe now that she will step down from the Presidency in 2010, but that she will run for Congress in her home district of Pampanga, and come to dominate the Congress, perhaps as its Speaker, which a former President could manage to do.
Furthermore, she will "allow" SCoRP to decide in favor of Erap and allow him to run for the Presidency in 2010, a ruling that will also automatically make her eligible for the Presidency again in 2016, when she will only be 68 years young and by then a Senior Statesman like Fidel Ramos. If her candidate(s) don't win in 2010, she would lead the Opposition against whoever does, maybe even Erap.
Then shoot for the Presidency again in six years. (BTW, I think her real candidate in the election next year is Manny Villar).