MANILA, Philippines — The business community will be disappointed if Joseph Estrada is acquitted by the Sandiganbayan of plunder, a securities analyst said Wednesday.
But it will also be disappointed if the ousted President is convicted and subsequently pardoned by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said Astro del Castillo, a director of the Association of Securities Analysts of the Philippines.
“It’s the right opportunity to create a model to go after grafters,” Del Castillo told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of INQUIRER.net.
“Reconciliation will always be there. But we have a long list of pardoned criminals and a short list of big fish who are punished for wrongdoing,” he said.
According to Del Castillo, the business community expects a verdict of conviction and corresponding punishment for Estrada, who is under house arrest at his vacation estate in Tanay, Rizal.
“Confidence will be affected,” he said of the prospect of an acquittal or a pardon.
Nonetheless, the business community is focused on the economic fundamentals and will be unnerved only if the security situation deteriorates as a result of the Sandiganbayan decision, whatever it may be, Del Castillo said.
In Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile’s opinion, Estrada has no choice but to accept a presidential pardon should the anti-graft court convict him of plunder.
A pardon is not for Estrada to reject because when the President grants it, she can immediately pull out the guards from his vacation estate, according to Enrile.
The senator expressed doubt that a verdict of acquittal would again raise questions on the legitimacy of the Arroyo administration.
He pointed out that Estrada’s term had already run its course and that Ms Arroyo was serving a new term. Thus, he said, there was no reason for Ms Arroyo to be insecure about her term.
Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, the ousted President’s eldest son, said there was no reason for Ms Arroyo to fear any payback from his father should the verdict be an acquittal.
“We are only out to clear our father’s name; we have no other agenda,” the younger Estrada said.
On the other hand, former President Fidel Ramos told the Inquirer on Tuesday that all talk about a pardon for Estrada in case of a conviction was premature.
He said government officials should wait for the court’s verdict before making such an offer.
Ramos shook his head at the mention of the recent Social Weather Stations survey showing that most residents of Mega Manila were in favor of a pardon for Estrada.
“You wait for the court,” he stressed.
‘Consider the people’
At a press conference in Malacañang, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the Sandiganbayan’s verdict could be used by certain quarters to sow chaos and instability, and that it was up to Estrada to ease the tense political atmosphere.
Ermita also called on the public to remain calm, and for Estrada partisans to observe the rule of law.
“As a good citizen and especially as a public official, all I can say is if my advice is sought [by Estrada] — and for that matter, I’m saying it right now — the best option would be really to consider the conditions of the greater majority of our people,” Ermita said.
Asked whether he would advise Estrada to “shun any offer to do an EDSA IV after his verdict,” Ermita said:
“Let’s not think of things that would destabilize ourselves because, of course, economic progress can only happen in a stable political environment. Anything that will cause destabilization even in the minds of our people should be avoided.”
Ermita said he expected Estrada to be “a responsible citizen.”
“Considering that he was President, and knowing him, I think he knows what’s good for our people…” the executive secretary said.
‘He knows better’
Ermita said he could not offer anything in exchange for Estrada’s cooperation in suppressing street protests.
“The former President is definitely much better than I am. He became President, I’m only where I am, so I don’t think that I can advise him on anything. He definitely knows better than what I might know, as far as his conduct is concerned,” Ermita said, adding:
“But I know that the reason he’s popular is that as a political leader, he wants the welfare of the majority of our people, rather than just personal ends, to be [paramount]. To that extent, I think former President Estrada would know how to conduct himself, especially in light of all these rumors of what might happen as a result of the verdict, whatever the verdict might be.”
‘Exchange of views’
National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales on Tuesday said that he had a lunch meeting last week with Estrada but that it was a mere “exchange of views.”
Also on Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Ms Arroyo’s newly appointed political adviser, said a pardon for Estrada in the event of a conviction was not farfetched. Reports from Norman Bordadora, Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., Cynthia D. Balana and Michael Lim Ubac