Erap, Binay set to declare tandem for 2010 polls
MANILA - A Palace official said on Wednesday that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's grant of pardon to Joseph Estrada in 2007 contains a pre-condition that bars the former president from running again in May 2010.
Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita told Palace reporters the pardon has a provision which says: "Whereas Joseph Ejercito Estrada has publicly committed to no longer seek any elective position or office."
Ermita believes that since this is a "whereas" clause, Estrada is prevented from running again for the presidency or from any public post.
Estrada agreed to the pardon after he was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for plunder or large-scale corruption in 2007 following a six-year trial. He was charged with taking bribes from gambling lords and stealing from state coffers.
However, the grant of pardon also restores Estrada's civil and political rights, which means he can vote and seek an elective post.
The pardon says: "In view hereof and pursuant to the authority conferred upon me by the Constitution, I hereby grant executive clemency to Joseph Ejercito Estrada, convicted of plunder and imposed a penalty of reclusion perpetua. He is hereby restored his civil and political rights."
Ermita said it will be up to the courts to settle this legal issue.
Binay is running mate
Estrada is expected to make a formal announcement Wednesday night in Tondo, Manila to seek the presidency for a second time. He won the presidency in 1998, but was ousted in a military-backed civilian revolt in January 2001.
The hard-living 72-year-old former action movie hero has vowed to win the presidency again to clear his name and leave a legacy as "the man who championed the cause of the masses".
Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay has formally accepted Estrada's offer to be his running mate.
Binay said he has an edge over the other vice-presidential aspirants due to his track record in making Makati a prosperous city, after serving as its chief local executive for nearly 20 years.
He added he will campaign for empowerment of local governments, which, he believes, is the key to a progressive nation. He will also focus on the problems of poverty, lack of jobs, and fighting corruption.
Although he will be up against popular senators like Mar Roxas of the Liberal Party, and possibly Loren Legarda of the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC), Binay said he has the advantage when it comes to experience in governance.
He said the Senate is basically a debating club, while local officials like him are involved in enforcement of laws and implementation of projects.
Expects ratings to rise
Binay said he also thinks that his and Esrada's ratings will rise once they declare their tandem for 2010.
Commenting on the Estrada-Binay tandem, Senator Legarda said he respects them both and wishes them well.
Senator Manny Villar, the presidential candidate of the Nacionalista Party, welcomed Estrada's entry into the race.
Based on a privately-commissioned rider question in the September 18-21 Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey, Estrada and Binay were statistically tied in third place with Senator Francis Escudero and Loren Legarda with 9% support from 1,800 respondents.
The top two tandems were: Senator Benigno Aquino III-Mar Roxas II (57%) and Manny Villar-Noli de Castro (19%).
Strong support from poor
Estrada still commands a sizeable following among the poor and those living in the countryside, who see in him the romantic folk hero of his box office successes, battling the rich and the corrupt. His nickname is Erap, a play on the word Pare, or buddy.
But Estrada remains a thorn in the side of the powerful church and of business leaders, who have worried about fiscal profligacy during his term in office and tales of a "midnight cabinet" of drinking and gambling buddies who influenced policy.
Traders have warned that prospects of an Estrada victory closer to the elections could spook financial markets.
"We want to have a new leader, not the old one, especially with a tainted record," said Astro del Castillo, managing director of the First Grade Holdings brokerage. "Investors will shy away if there is a candidate who has a poor track record and is not trusted by business."
Estrada has said the three main problems of the country that must be addressed are: ending insurgencies by Muslim and left-wing rebels, controlling the population increase, and removing corruption in government.
He has aged since his term in office. He said he smokes a pack a day, and enjoys French wine. Renowned for having a string of mistresses, Estrada has fathered 12 children.
Asked with how many women, he told Reuters last month: "That's private property, no trespassing." But he added: "I have borne children out of wedlock. My wife is not complaining, so you don't have to complain."
Winning next year's election would be a vindication, he said.
"One more chance and that's it. It's really the last performance of my life. I have no more ambition in life except that when I exit, I be remembered as the man who championed the cause of the masses." -- report from Willard Cheng, Sheryll Mundo, ABS-CBN News; and Reuters