MANILA, Philippines - Almost 9 years after he was ousted, former President Joseph Estrada is set to return on Tuesday to Malacañang Palace - but only to attend a meeting to be convened by his successor, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Estrada said he will attend the meeting of the full National Security Council (NSC). He said he accepted the invitation of President Arroyo that was sent Friday night.
He said he would let politics take a backseat for the moment and would not question Mrs. Arroyo on her political motives.
The important thing, said the former president, is that he may be able to help in the discussions on national concerns.
Acting National Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales earlier disclosed that that among the issues that may be tackled by the full NSC meeting are the May elections, dismantling of private armies, and the campaign to recover loose firearms.
Estrada said he would propose the outright dismantling of all private armies.
He also said that he would insist that the May elections push through. If there is a failure of elections, he warned this may lead to chaos.
Erap misses Palace
Meanwhile, Estrada admitted having flashbacks about his presidency after getting the invitation. He said he greatly regrets his abbreviated presidential term.
He said he misses his activities at the Palace such as receiving guests.
He only laughed, however, when told about the joke that he may decide not to leave Malacañang after the Tuesday meeting of the NSC.
He said the issue would be settled by the May elections.
He said becoming a president is “destiny,” and he believes he is “destined” for a comeback in the May 2010 presidential elections.
However, he still lags behind Senators Benigno Aquino III and Manuel Villar in the surveys of the Social Weather Stations (SWS) done last month.
Gonzales said former President Fidel Ramos was also invited to attend the meeting.
Estrada did not attend the NSC meeting last 2005 since he was still detained on plunder charges. He was convicted on September 2007. However, Arroyo, just weeks after his conviction, pardoned him and restored his civil and political rights.
No full NSC meet since 2005
A full NSC meeting has not been held since 2005 when President Arroyo was being hounded by charges of rigging the results of the 2004 presidential elections.
In 2005, the so-called "Hello Garci" election scandal broke out involving wiretapped conversations between Mrs. Arroyo and an election commissioner.
The alleged recordings supposedly proves cheating in the elections. Aside from Arroyo and Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano, the scandal also involved 3 military generals.
“This (full meeting of the NSC) has not happened since 2005 for reasons probably many of you understand. We have been beset by conflicts, debates politically,” Gonzales said.
He said the NSC should now be convened regardless of the state of politics.
The success of the May elections is crucial to the country’s political and economic stability in 2010, while its failure or deferment could trigger unrest, a NSC official told religious and military leaders Sunday in a briefing. With a report from Maricar Bautista, ABS-CBN News