Asks SC to set hearing on Lim's claims on his pardon
MANILA - Former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada urged the Supreme Court (SC) to set a full hearing on an allegation raised by his erstwhile rival in the May polls, Alfredo Lim, involving the pardon granted to Estrada by former President Gloria Arroyo on his conviction for plunder.
In a 32-page Comment on the Petition-in-Intervention filed by Lim to join the plea of Atty. Alicia Risos Vidal for the cancellation of Estrada's certificate of candidacy (COC) for Manila Mayor, Estrada asked the high court to receive evidence on a "factual issue" raised by Lim in the latter's petition.
Lim told the high court that Mrs. Arroyo intended to make Estrada's commitment to no longer seek elective office a condition for the grant of pardon since "there can be no denying that former Pres. Arroyo and...Estrada were bitter political rivals at the time the pardon was granted."
"Indeed, if we are to ask former Pres. Arroyo on how to interpret her own pardon to respondent Estrada, she, in all likelihood, would construe the whereas clause as a condition for the clemency, for evident political reasons, if not out of sheer personal disdain," Lim, in his petition, said.
Because of this claim, Estrada urged the high court to either call for a full hearing to hear the issue, or direct the Court of Appeals (CA) to do the same.
Estrada assured the high court that he shall prove: 1) that it was Mrs. Arroyo who initially offered to grant him absolute pardon on the condition that he should apply for it, which he rejected; and, 2) a "full and absolute pardon" was offered to him after he approved its draft.
Estrada further stressed that Mrs. Arroyo's offer of "absolute pardon" was "an attempt to buy mass support from the followers of Estrada" at the height of challenges to her legitimacy as chief executive in 2007.
COMELEC CORRECT IN RULING THAT PARDON WAS NOT CONDITIONAL
Estrada said that the high court should sustain the Commission on Elections' (Comelec) ruling that his pardon was not conditional and, therefore, restored his political right to vote and be voted on.
Estrada cited the high court's ruling in Garcia vs Comelec, which states that "a pardon has generally been regarded as blotting out the existence of guilt so that in the eyes of the law the offender is as innocent as though he never committed the offense."
LIM'S PETITION SHOULD BE DISMISSED
Estrada urged the high court to dismiss Lim's petition for lack of merit.
Estrada said Lim lacked the legal standing to intervene in the case because he (Lim) doed not stand to sustain any direct injury, or is denied a right or privilege he is entitled to, with Estrada sitting as Mayor of Manila.
Estrada pointed out that under Sec 44 of the Local Government Code, when the winning candidate for Governor or Mayor is disqualified, the Vice-Governor or the Vice-Mayor succeeds to the vacated position, and not the candidate who got the second most number of votes for the position in question.
Estrada won over Lim with 343,993 votes in the recently concluded elections; Lim got 308,544 votes. Estrada was proclaimed Mayor of Manila and is serving his term even as Vidal's petition remains pending with the high court.