‘Mistrust’ on Villar, not Erap behind Senate coup

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — A staunch ally and former spokesman of deposed President Joseph Estrada maintains only an adverse ruling by the Supreme Court stands in the way of Estrada returning to Malacanang as president in 2010.

In a talk yesterday, Rep. Didagen Dilangalen (Shariff Kabunsuan, Cotabato City), maintained the still popular opposition leader would win the election should he decides to throw his hat in the presidential contest less than two years from now.

“He (Estrada) continues to maintain his popularity with the masses who are getting desperate. The people would vote for any presidential aspirants from the opposition especially if it is Pres. Erap who is running, If this happens, Pres. Erap would win the presidency hands down like in the 1998 elections,” Dilangalen declared.

Dilangalen served as Estrada’s spokesman and even run as one of the opposition senatorial bets in the 2004 elections under Estrada’s political party, the Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino.

His statement came on the heels of the declaration by Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez that Estrada, pardoned last year by Pres. Macapagal-Arroyo a few weeks after being convicted of plunder by the Sandiganbayan, is barred from seeking re-election by the Constitution.

Gonzalez also maintained that the former chief executive is intent on running again despite the legal hitches.

Dilangalen at the same time branded as “unfair” allegations that Estrada has a hand in last Monday’s coup at the Senate that toppled Sen. Manny Villar from the Senate presidency and the ascension of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.

“It is unfair to Pres. Erap; he has nothing to do with it. As I see it, he couldn’t care less who gets to be the Senate president because he is very confident of his own political standing. It’s not like for Pres. Erap to betray someone,” Dilangalen pointed out.

Dilangalen maintained “apprehension” and “mistrust” among Villar’s colleagues in the Upper Chamber over the latter’s perceived advantage as presidential aspirant due to his being the Senate president, motivated them to unseat him.

“He (Villar) had it coming. In fairness, I don’t think Villar was using his position in the Senate to advance his ambition but then, the senators probably saw the matter differently,” Dilangalen said.

Dilangalen came to Estrada’s attention for vehemently opposing Villar’s “railroading” of the impeachment complaint against Estrada in 2000.

The congressman’s lone voice of protest was drowned however when Villar, then House Speaker, banged the gable that sent the complaint to the Senate for trial and subsequently, a long jail term for Estrada.