Excerpts of the GMA-7 November 2009 Presidential forum (Tagalog parts translated into English)
PRETTY smart and very straightforward answers from former President Joseph "Erap" Estrada. Herein, he confronts the perpetually hot issue of his Plunder conviction with an un-trapo-like honesty. The comebacking politician also defends his performance during his unfinished first term with regards food security.
On his claim of innocence re plunder/theft of government money:
Estrada: Nothing was proven. Nothing was proved with regards [the issue] of my supposed theft of government money, not a single centavo... My conviction pertains to jueteng. That jueteng [money] ....was deposited in the Muslim Youth Foundation, of which I was not a beneficiary. Its Board of Trustees were ...UP professors. So that was clean.
They needed to convict me. That is why they created that court to convict me. That special court--the first time a special court was created. And that court was created to convict me. In fact, when I was convicted, two [Sandiganbayan] justices were immediately promoted to the Supreme Court.
So that was my only conviction. And that I supposedly received commission from one corporation, the BW. But the [one who stood as] witness said I wasn't given the money, it was given to Jaime Dichavez, not to me.
Assuming... that the jueteng and the commission to me, they are called private money, ... not goverment money. That's the two counts I was convicted [for]. Those citing the 7171, re government money--none, I'm cleared.
So [if that were true], I wouldn't have the courage to face the Filipino people and run [for president] again if I did steal, if I were guilty.
Look at the conviction, just the two counts. But with regards graft and corruption, every contract I approved was scrutinized. A Task Force was established by the Department of Justice consisting of six lawyers...who scrutinized everything ... but they didn't see any contract tainted with anomaly. If there were even just one [anomaly] seen, it would have made headlines....
On poverty level during his first term:
Erap: In 1997, just please recall that there was an Asian Economic Crisis.... when i assumed office, our agricultural growth rate was zero-zero. I was able to raise that [agri growth rate level] to 6.6%. Such is documented. And inflation rate was 12%, I reduced it by 3.0%.
And our GNP, I was able to increase it up to 3.6%. This is documented, professor. You can check it with the Department of Finance.
So what are you claiming that.. .... and I concentrated on food security. Re agriculture, from 0-0 growth, raised to 6.6 [percent].
[My administration] just came from the Asian crisis. And I was able to turn the tide. We were able to overcome the [effects of] the Asian crisis. That is on record, Prof. Monsod if you can go out of your way to find out from the Department of Finance.
On Bro. Eddie Villanueva's question re dealing with the "perpetrators of extrajudicial killings and of massive gargantuan, unabated corruption":
Erap: There should be intense investigation and after the...[conclusion] of the investigation, there should be... "certainty of punishment," which is what's important. There are many people in government that escape prosecution because their cases are [allowed to be] fixed... even extrajudicial killings....
On the part of GMA-7, including Mel Tiangco, the TV station seemed much more civil and less bias here than during the interview they conducted right after Estrada's announcement to seek the presidency once more time. Said issue was touched on in an earlier Philippine Commentary article: