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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

 

Roxas files Resolution for Erap amnesty

By Efren L. Danao, Senior Reporter

Sen. Mar Roxas filed Monday a resolution in the Senate urging President Arroyo to pardon her predecessor Joseph Estrada “at the appropriate time and on humanitarian grounds.”

Explaining the filing of Resolution 135, Roxas said pardoning Estrada, who was convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan last week, might enable the country to heal the wounds of EDSA 2 and to move on.

Roxas said he met with Estrada at the latter’s resthouse in Tanay, Rizal, over the weekend but they did not discuss the issue of a presidential pardon so he did not know if it would be welcomed.

Some Malacañang officials, including Presidential Legal Adviser Sergio Apostol and National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, have already come out in favor of a pardon.

Roxas said Malacañang could immediately declare it was ready to pardon Estrada after the legal process had been completed. A pardon could not be granted while a convict is appealing his case.

He maintained that justice would be served even if Estrada would be pardoned so soon after his conviction.

“He had been detained for six years. He had already been convicted and as long as he lives, he will always be described as a former president who had been convicted. That is a very heavy cross to carry for a man of Erap’s stature,” he said.

He said it is up to Mala­cañang whether to issue a conditional or absolute pardon. An absolute pardon would erase the conviction and Estrada would no longer require him to return the money he had allegedly stolen and to surrender the properties that he had acquired from the fruits of the plunder.

Earlier, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said she doubted if Estrada would accept a conditional pardon, which would require him to perform some acts. And amnesty for Estrada is not possible because it is extended only to groups committing political crimes. Santiago added that one must accept guilt of a political crime and apply for amnesty to be eligible for it.

At a weekly breakfast forum in Quezon City, Leonard de Vera, one of the private prosecutors in Estrada’s plunder case, said giving the ex-president an amnesty would send a negative message and would also not foster national unity.

De Vera was reacting to reports that the government and the opposition agree on letting Estrada go free but differ on whether it would be through a pardon or an amnesty.

Estrada’s spokesman, Caga­yan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodrigu­ez, said the former convicted president is now open to an amnesty.

De Vera said it is only normal for Estrada to consider amnesty because he would be inconsistent if he accepted a pardon from Mrs. Arroyo which he considers as an illegitimate president.

“Pardon is a single act of the President, while amnesty is initiated by the President but she needs the approval of the majority of the Congress,” de Vera said during the Kapihan ng Bayan forum. “In both cases it will be like Estrada has not committed any crime, he will be unblemished.”

As far as Donald Dee, chairman of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is concerned the verdict has been accepted by the business community, but the government must come up with a closure to the issue.

An Arroyo support, Lakas-CMD Rep. Prospero Nograles, chided Estrada for insisting on certain conditions before agreeing to an amnesty offer, which includes looking at the “fine print” of the amnesty proposal first.

“What fine print? It takes two to tango. As far as I know, legally it is the ‘pardoner’ who states the conditions and not the ‘pardonee’ or the convicted. It seems like tables are being turned around here,” Nograles said.

He said only a pardon could apply to Estrada because his case did not involve a political offense.

“I don’t think the state can give amnesty to all those convicted as plunderers belonging to the same class. How does amnesty apply to someone who is not a rebel or a class of persons similarly situated?” Nog­rales said.

House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora said if he were to advise Estrada he would tell him to avail himself of an amnesty, wherein acceptance of guilt will not be a requirement.

“An amnesty is usually given in general without any specific conditions other than the acceptance that someone has committed an offense,” Zamora said.

He defended Estrada’s decision to set conditions before agreeing to an amnesty offer.
--With Jefferson Antiporda and Maricel V. Cruz

   

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