Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Joseph "Erap" Estrada Answers Plunder Conviction & Food Security Issues Head-On



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:

19 comments:

manuelbuencamino said...

Erap was convicted of plunder, was he not?

As to the jueteng issue. The larger picture there is he tolerated jueteng. So what if the payola went to the muslim youth foundation and so what if he was not the beneficiary. That's not the point.

The point is the president is the chief law enforcer of the land but he allowed jueteng (kasi mawawakan daw ng trabaho ang libo-libong kobrador and a hungry stomach knows no law) and he accepted payola in behalf of the foundation.

That to me shows Erap does not know that the lines are not supposed to be redrawn capriciously.

Everyone has to live within the lines set by the law. Erap did not believe that, he redrew the lines on jueteng. So if it was okay for him to interpret the law and justify breaking it for the "greater" good then he should not complain when someone decides to mess with the law and persecute him for the "greater" good.

I am not defending the administration. I think what they did was wrong. But at the same time I think Erap is also wrong to say he did no wrong. He did wrong - he tolerated jueteng and he took payola. Whether or not it was for his own benefit is another issue.

Jesusa Bernardo said...

The point is that Erap should NOT have been convicted of Plunder. Ah, plunder involves government money.

The underlying point is that it's Kangaroo Court that convicted him. Ninoy Aquino should not have been convicted of murder, sedition, and illegal possession of firearms, but he was.

Convictions designed to be politically exploited by questionable administrations mean absolutely nothing. Isn't it obvious that Arrobo wanted to justify her EDSA 2 power grab while Marcos, his Martial Law?

Erap tolerated jueteng. But every President did so. Recent memory, Cory, Ramos and the Illegitimate Gloria. Under Cory, her infamous Peping was jueteng lord, which she didn't have the courage to admit to.

manuelbuencamino said...

Jesusa,

Whether or not the other presidents tolerated or even profited from jueteng is something we have no way of proving beyond reasonable doubt.

In Erap's case however, he admitted it.

So we can say, without any doubt that Erap tolerated jueteng and allowed the muslim youth to benefit from payola.

But for the sake of argument let's say that all previous presidents also admitted that they tolerated jueteng and accepted payola for whatever altruistic reason, that still does not make Erap any less culpable.

But like you I am against persecution. That much we agree on. Our only disagreement is I am not willing to give Erap a pass on the jueteng issue because he showed a capricious attitude towards law enforcement.

Jesusa Bernardo said...

So we can say, without any doubt that Erap tolerated jueteng and allowed the muslim youth to benefit from payola.

As I said, so straightforward and honest answers from Erap. Not even Cory came close. Well, a little close with her December 2009 apology to Erap over Edsa 2.

Still, NOT a ground for plunder, you'll agree?

But like you I am against persecution.

Very fair, MB. I like you.

"I am not willing to give Erap a pass on the jueteng issue because he showed a capricious attitude towards law enforcement."

What about a pass on capricious tolerance of sedition, which is a much graver sin that tramples on the electoral rights of the millions of Filipinos who voted Erap into office?

I see your good intents/idea based on your posts/comments but when it comes to Edsa 2, I have to say you're morally flexible. I remember you commenting that you never were for the Davide court's novel "constructive resignation" ruling on Erap, but I don't think you've ever condemned Edsa 2 nor referred to Gloria as Illegitimate president, which she is.

manuelbuencamino said...

Jesusa,

As a matter of fact I wrote an article for Today newspaper (before it was sold to the Standard) right after the election called The president with an asterisk.

You will also notice that I have not ever called Gloria as President Arroyo.

I was against EDSA Dos because it short circuited the process.

Although I have condemned the behavior of Davide and Gloria and her allies in Edsa Dos I have not condemned those who went to the streets thinking that they were doing the right thing.

So I am of two minds on Edsa Dos - I condemn th cynics who directed it and I feel sorry for the naive who took part in it. I choose not to condemn the naive.

I also have to admit I was happy to see Erap go although not in the way he was forced out. Why was I happy to see him go? Because I saw with my own eyes the type of people he had surrounded himself with. Those people, pigs and hustlers, I wouldn't want within a mile of me or any of my loved ones became Palace habitues. This I know from personal experience because I know them personally.

Jesusa Bernardo said...

"I condemn th cynics who directed it"

By "cynics" I think you mean the conspirators of Edsa 2, possibly those of Oplan Excelsis infamy.

"I have not condemned those who went to the streets thinking that they were doing the right thing."

In my case, I brand them 'gullibles' because they wouldn't even admit to their costly mistake of 'naivety' (more cynical translation: stupidity) that brought the country to Arrobo hell. But I do laud the likes of Cory brave enough to admit to her wrong (Unfortunately not shared by the son, Noynoy, though).

"You will also notice that I have not ever called Gloria as President Arroyo."

I hope you don't mind the snoop, but I checked your blog and I think you did at least 1, 2 times. Seems not the rule, though.

As for "people, pigs, hustlers" in Malacanang during Erap's times, could be true, but doesn't mean the deposed President tolerated corruption of government funds. I know some whose bids/contracts remained pending under Estrada but easily got them approved under Gloria, and more!

That's should explain why the DOJ task force found NOTHING anomalous in contracts during Erap's time.

manuelbuencamino said...

Jesusa,

Oo nga ano. But I think your first citation is a quotation which I forgot to enclose with quotation marks. The second one I think was really a slip on my part.

I have been very careful about not calling Gloria president after the 2004 election. I have been consistent but not perfect, sa madaling salita.

On the other matters...

There is no question that Gloria is corrupt. The most corrupt ever.
But Erap is not as clean as you think.

And I don't follow the argument that he did nothing wrong because he did not touch government funds.

Jueteng payola is not government funds but it is still wrong, even criminal, to accept them.

Moving beyond jueteng payola....

If he made money, for example, from the stock market because a friend who wanted to impress him gave him an inside tip or if he made a commission because he helped a private individual purchase control of a private company then that is a corruption of his position as president.

Those opportunities came because he was the president and not because he was an award winning movie actor.

Those hustlers made sure people knew they were close to the president because they used it as a license to bully their way into getting government contracts.

Remember Erap ordered that contracts over P50M must be reviewed by him. That means contracts for lesser amounts didn't have to be reviewed by him. So one only had to break big contracts into lesser amounts and they would never cross Erap's desk. "Okay na ito kay presidente" his "friends" would tell bureaucrats. They knew the poor guy will never call the president to check. Many of these things happened without Erap's knowledge.

And that is another thing against him. He was a poor judge of character. He associated with hustlers, welcomed them into Malacanan, stayed up wining, dining, playing mahjong until the wee hours of the morning. That was common knowledge because his "friends" bragged about it and his straight cabinet men complained about it. Erap would sign documents hand carried by these hustlers and cabinet secretaries would have to undo them the next day.

So sa madaling salita, he may be super charismatic and charming and really loves the poor but he has too many character flaws to become a good president. Sayang he could have been another Magsaysay.

Nevertheless, if Erap is elected president I will bow to the sovereign will, support him when he does the right thing, and call him out when he does not.

That is the complete opposite of my position regarding Gloria. I would not support her even if she were doing the right thing because she has no right to be doing anything from Malacanan in the first place.

Jesusa Bernardo said...

"I have been very careful about not calling Gloria president after the 2004 election. I have been consistent but not perfect, sa madaling salita."

Laudable, at least compared to others who were well aware of Arrobo's illegitimacy but turned a blind eye, or were even thankful that FPJ didn't become President.

Still, that same statement of yours shows you condoned Edsa 2, Gloria's 'presidency' & the politico-genetic legal animal that's "constructive resignation" until May 2004.

As for Erap not being that clean, hey, I never voted for him & was almost a rabid anti-Erap before the 2000 Erap resign movement generated by DOM Chavit's expose. In fact, I was even haughtier in my anti-Erap position than many of the continuing gullibles now.

My position back in Jan. 2001 was: they all have their share of corruption, why depose the duly elected Erap (compare to Ramos & Cory) when he allowed himself to be subjected to impeachment proceedings. His camp was winning, so depose na lang? Susmeyo. Machiavellian. Undemocratic. Unconstitutional. Un-Filipino!

Those seditious people were not judgmental against Cory's Kamag-anak nor Ramos' Centennial Expo, etc., anomalies, so why be so against Erap, & over jueteng money!

One more, I was aware of the character of whose wanting Erap resign/deposed. I'm personally aware of the corruption of 1 or 2 of the local officials in the movement and the rest, by reputation.

I just though the better-intentioned of Edsa 2 people were nuts. It's not even like Gloria's a Cory...

Now, of course, I understand the role of elite, even foreign, interests in ousting Erap. Estrada, who dared remove sovereign guarantees in contracts. Like almost all the rest, he was not really clean, but he had the boldness to be pro-masa and pro-Philippines.

Jesusa Bernardo said...

"and his straight cabinet men complained about it. Erap would sign documents hand carried by these hustlers and cabinet secretaries would have to undo them the next day."

I also wanted to mention how good his cabinet was. Simply the best ever. Possibly explains why he chose the best and cleanest--to undo his mistakes. Maybe that's part of his design--give allowance for what he lacks/his mistakes to ensure the public good.

On another matter, please don't give me President Magsaysay.

Aside from being a true-blue Amboy by mind and soul, he wasn't that good a leader. Aren't they saying that the Phil. economy was on the decline during his term?

manuelbuencamino said...

Magsaysay lived clean and died with his reputation intact.

Edsa 2 I did not condone. I accepted it as done when Erap left Malacanan and when Edsa3 failed.

AdB said...

JB,

I am of the belief that Erap was technically convicted on wrong grounds.

Your verbatim report shows that he seems to have defended himself rather well.

You of course know that in many ways I have been a staunch defender of Erap's presidency or at least his right to the presidency...

But his remarkable defence of himself stating that money from jueteng, which we all know is illegal, is not government money , however, is like splitting hairs. In my book (admittedly a thin legal book), amassing hundreds of millions of pesos on which taxes have not been paid, is like stealing from govt coffers, don't you think. Moreover, putting away said money in a bank account, regardless of what they were supposed to be intended for, to me is synonymous to money laundering (and if you think hard, it is money laudering... (laundering illegal money)...

Erap, we all agree, was the duly elected president, and as one, he had a legal and moral mandate to preside over state and govt affairs but sadly, his presiding over state abd givt affairs, i.e., the execution of that mandate had not been exactly moral and to a large extent, he condoned practices within the govt that were not quite "legal" and moreover, were morally questionnable.

I say this as one who had seen him work up close and could say with conviction that the man had not actually lived up to the terms of the execution of his mandate, i.e., moral and legal.

That said, I was virulently opposed to his toppling. It was nor right and one cannot correct a wrong by doing another wrong.

(Have you seen the movie, The Postman Always Rings Twice? It reminds me of what happened to Erap.)

AdB said...

I condemn Edsa 2 in the most virulent fashion! It was wrong, it violated the Constitution (aone of the major reasons why the country is in deep shit today), people were abused, the poor were misused. Edsa 2 was done for all the wrong reasons...

Jesusa Bernardo said...

"You of course know that in many ways I have been a staunch defender of Erap's presidency or at least his right to the presidency..."

Hi AdB. Indeed, and girl, am I so glad that you're a wonderful addition to the tribe.

I am of the belief that Erap was technically convicted on wrong grounds.

So true. We're all aware he had his share of questionable acts like almost all (or all?) previous presidents. And vice. That's why I assume you and many others who disapprove of Edsa 2 like me didn't vote for Erap back in 1998.

What's especially off with him is that he's of the rough or 'uncouth' kind. The higher classes or intellectuals are simply more used to refinement and show of decency on the outside, even if the president makes dirty deals sub rosa, or let his/her kamag-anak/friends do it for her/him.

Re jueteng, I also agree it's a kind of money laundering. My point really is if you'll persecute Erap over it, persecute all the others for their brands of corruption, especially those involving government funds. Why be tolerant of Ramos and Cory (kamag-anak) and other lesser officials but not of Erap?

It's clear Estrada was singled out because he championed the cause of the masa the way he knew it, hurting elite interests in the process.

As for taxes lost on jueteng, remember that he wanted it legalized precisely so the government can earn from the taxes. I speculate that while waiting for the legalization process (of course he didn't know he'll be deposed), he wanted to make 'use' of jueteng money.

Jesusa Bernardo said...

the man had not actually lived up to the terms of the execution of his mandate, i.e., moral and legal.

Possibly. But so did Ramos. And worse. What could be more despicable than using the centennial of the commemoration of the our heroes and heroines--those who braved death to fight for our freedom from colonial oppression--just to further one's corruption?

Had they did an Edsa coup on Ramos as well, I probably wouldn't complain much what they did to Erap. Gosh, I actually used to dislike the guy so much. Just basing it on the measure of severity of 'crime,' it's Ramos who deserved an ouster, and Plunder conviction.

I read DJB's comments in an old thread in MLQ's blog and I think he wrote something like 'knowing Erap, he'll mend his ways' or something. I completely agree with that because I saw Estrada's countenance during the December 2000 El Shaddai prayer rally--despite my reservations then, I sensed such sincerity and repentance in his face.

I actually think that had Cory and Cardinal Sin and the Edsa 2 gullibles been more "Christian" and not judgmental/forgiving, the Philippines could have had the best administration in decades. I mean, the opportunity of a President who's pro-masa and yet, on his toes to discharge his executive duties well (or else...), it could have done our country so much good.

Sayang. A big opportunity axed by elite business interest and political greed. And mob gullibility....

AdB said...

Hi JB

Just so you know, while I agree that all the other presidents were involved in really less than honest governance, my comments above, eg., on jueteng and general governance, pertained to and focused only on Erap, the politician, the president and the man, and his presidency.

And you're right, I knew Erap personally enough not to vote for him in 1998. But when he was elected president, I gave him my support believing that it had to be done for the coutnry to move forward. And I suppose there's a bit of that anglicised culture in me, that which supports the underdog. I found it distasteful that he was being mocked and laughed at at home and abroad, because he was an actor, under-educated, etc. which to me was a derision by extension of the Filipino voters.

AdB said...

I mean, the opportunity of a President who's pro-masa and yet, on his toes to discharge his executive duties well (or else...), it could have done our country so much good.

Could've...but I'm not so sure. Erap's presidency, or the discharge of his mandate, the execution of his job was not quite up to speed. He was not a hands on president and truly, so many things were going wrong in several departments, DOTC, DND first and foremost among them. Corruption, perhaps not by him directly, but by his lieutenants was prevalent. I saw things first hand.

Despite that I virulently was opposed to those (many of whom I know personally) who wanted his downfall through extra-judicial means.

Jesusa Bernardo said...

"my comments above, eg., on jueteng and general governance, pertained to and focused only on Erap, the politician, the president and the man, and his presidency."

And, in the interest of fairness, I was trying to contextualize within the larger contemporary politics, with focus on the 'culture' of EDSA "People Power."

Because that's why I came to support the man I looked down upon and disliked as politician. Unfair to do an Edsa 2 on Erap but not on Ramos.

"which to me was a derision by extension of the Filipino voters."

So true, particularly of the 'masa' votes. And I must admit I used to be one of the deriders (I used to say that only the uneducated or ignorant would vote for him)

But similar to you, I came to support him. Particularly when they wanted him out of power because I truly respect democracy and the principle of elections by majority.

Erap was elected despite his flaws so why the movement to oust him? They should have let him finish his term, while perhaps remaining vigilant to help ensure good governance.

I saw the remake of Daniel Tirona's insult on Bonifacio & Aguinaldo's deadly power grab in the anti-Erap movement & Edsa 2. When I was young, I couldn't imagine why that was done to the Katipunan founder. Now, I understand the elite factor.

Jesusa Bernardo said...

Could've...but I'm not so sure. Erap's presidency, or the discharge of his mandate, the execution of his job was not quite up to speed.

Yes, but that was before the anti-Erap movement came full speed. I saw in him during the Dec. 2000 Luneta prayer rally the intent to change. Had those seditious elites and gullibles given Erap another chance and just remained vigilant instead, as I earlier wrote, his could have been the best administration in decades.

Jesusa Bernardo said...

@MB

"Magsaysay lived clean and died with his reputation intact."

Yes, nobody will contest that. On the personal level, Pres. Magsaysay deserves the respect of Filipinos.

Policy-wise, however, to what direction did he bring the country?