Can Estrada still catch up?

By Demaree J. B. Raval
The Daily Tribune

That is the question posed by my friend Fel Maragay in his article on former President Joseph Estrada’s chances as a consequence of the decision of the second division of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) throwing out the disqualification cases against Estrada.

The question wrongly assumes that the survey results showing Estrada to be lagging behind in the presidential race are true and correct. Corollary to that wrong assumption, too much reliance is made on the unsubstantiated claim of Estrada’s detractors that he will continue to lose supporters, and not even gain any, upon the unfounded fear that their votes might just be wasted if he would be disqualified by the Comelec, or by the Supreme Court eventually.

Fel did cite incontrovertible reasons supporting an affirmative answer to his question, and I cannot but agree with him.

Estrada, relegated by the mercenary surveys to a poor third place, has always been there slugging it out with the frontrunners anointed by the surveys, and he will be slugging it out with them until election day.

Former Senate President Ernesto Maceda views Estrada’s triumph in the first round of the disqualification case as a key factor that would turn the tide of the presidential contest in Estrada’s favor.

Another good thing going for Estrada is the resolution of the Department of Justice striking out Estrada’s name as a suspect in the November 2000 murder of publicist Bubby Dacer and his driver, even as it recommended the indictment of Sen. Panfilo Lacson, against whom a warrant of arrest has already been issued.

And Estrada, in the latest round of television advertisements, has vowed to project himself as “presidential,” a complete departure from the song-and-dance routine of his opponents.

To prove that we will have Estrada slugging it out until election day, read this account of Maceda: “Weeks before the Dec. l deadline for the filing of certificate of candidacy, Aquino met with Estrada at the Makati residence of a common friend, businessman and former Finance Secretary Jose Pardo, in the hope of persuading the 72-year-old ex-president to pull out from the presidential derby and secure Erap’s backing for his own candidacy. Estrada candidly told him that he could not accede to his proposition because he was determined to seek political vindication after his term as president was cut short by Edsa II. He said he wanted to resume his programs that were abruptly disrupted and discontinued by his unceremonious ouster from the seat of power.”

At the Kapihan sa Sulo yesterday, Cavite Rep. Boying Remulla accused Sen. Noynoy Aquino of “having blood in his hands” for his complicity with what Boying calls the “SCTex Massacre” and the decades long and often violent oppression of farmers in the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac.

Remulla said he dubbed the scandal over the construction of the SCTex as a “massacre” because it involves slowly murdering the farmers of Hacienda Luisita by paying them starvation wages, limiting their workdays and the area of the land they till.

Remulla disclosed that hearings at the House of Representatives elicited the fact that Noynoy used his influence as a legislator not only to push the SCTex project, but specifically the interconnection of Hacienda Luisita to it, at a stupendous cost to government and taxpayers.

The net effect of Noynoy’s machination is that from its original cost of P18.7 billion in 1999, the SCTex project cost ballooned to a whopping P32.808 billion, or double the original price, by the time it got finished.

Noynoy is being marketed as a presidential candidate with integrity and one who is not tainted by corruption and scandals. But with the SCTex Massacre, this claim of the Liberal Party violates the cardinal rule requiring truth in advertising.

Remulla distributed copies of DBP Check No. 17026953 dated April 16, 2004, made out to “Hacienda Luisita Inc.” in the amount of P50 million as part of the SCTex right-of-way payment. He thereby raised the very distinct possibility that Noynoy may have won reelection as congressman in 2004 (against Victor Yap, the present governor of Tarlac) through the use of “blood money” extracted by his family from the overprice in the right-of -way payment.

When the House of Representatives resumes sessions on May 31, 2010, it should proceed, as its first item in the agenda, to the ratification of the bicameral conference committee report on the Freedom of Information Act. The Senate, despite the intramurals over the C-5 report, managed to ratify the report on Feb. 1. For lack of quorum on the last day of sessions on Feb. 3, the House of Representatives failed to ratify the report.

The Right to Know, Right Now! Campaign, which has pushed the enactment of the Freedom of Information Act since 23 years ago upon the ratification of the 1987 Constitution, has vowed to see to it that Speaker Prospero Nograles will do as he promised to support the ratification on May 31.

Those who wish to join the Right to Know, Right Now! Campaign are invited to attend mass to be celebrated on Feb. 14 at the Sto. NiƱo de Tondo Parish on Chacon Street in Tondo, Manila.

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