By BENJIE OLIVEROS
MANILA — He has been hinting it ever since he made himself visible again by embarking on provincial sorties. Thus, when former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada announced, at the end of a 30-minute speech, that he would run for president again, nobody was surprised. Every one was expecting it even if the majority opinion is that his running for reelection violates the 1987 Constitution.
However, beyond the legal ramifications of Estrada’s reelection bid is the historical absurdity of it all. Upon hearing his formal announcement, one could not help but say again “only in the Philippines.” It is only in the Philippines where a disgraced president who was ousted by a people’s uprising would dare run for the presidency again, without atoning for his past mistakes and even insisting that he did nothing wrong. This is an indication of the depths of degradation to which Philippine politics and elections have sunk. The worse part is nobody laughed. In fact, around 10,000 people attended his rally and cheered his announcement.
When Imelda Marcos ran for president in 1992, nobody, or at most a mere handful, took her seriously. But Estrada has consistently been among the top five in surveys. This has emboldened him to run for reelection.
Who could blame Estrada and his supporters? The blatant corruption and scandalous bribes, the bending of the law by the executive, the bastardization of legislative processes, and the manipulation of the judiciary to suit the administration’s political maneuverings have made everything possible and legal for as long as one could get away with it. The impunity in corruption, debasement of democratic processes, and human rights violations under the Arroyo government have rendered the concept of accountability inutile. And the massive cheating during the 2004 and 2007 elections has turned this sole venue for people’s participation in governance into a farce.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo makes Estrada, a known drunkard, womanizer, and gambler, look like a saint.
Estrada’s lawyers have been asserting their interpretation of the 1987 Constitution to prove that his reelection bid is legal. They assert that the prohibition on reelection applies only to an incumbent. Second, they also claim that since Estrada has served for only two years and a half, the Constitutional prohibition does not apply to him.
When the 1987 Constitution was framed, the memory of 14 years under the Marcos dictatorship was still fresh in the people’s minds. Thus, the framers of the 1987 Constitution, the members of the constitutional commission, made sure that there were enough safeguards against the reemergence of another dictatorship. They sought to prevent a president from keeping himself in power through reelection or declaring martial law. To do so, the 1987 Constitution explicitly prohibits a president from seeking reelection. It also instituted a rigorous process for declaring martial law.
Of course, Estrada and his lawyers would push for an interpretation that would allow him to seek reelection to pursue his ‘vindication’. It is also expected that Arroyo and her allies would move heaven and earth to block Estrada’s reelection bid for fear that if he wins, he might return the favor by likewise convicting Arroyo of plunder.
The drama, or more aptly the farce, that is unfolding before us appears to be an aberration in Philippine politics. But is it? With the way the Arroyo administration has been running the country, it seems that it is Philippine politics that is the aberration. Only the Filipino people could do something about it, not the trapos, not the ruling elite. (Bulatlat.com)