Erap to lead supporters against term extension

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — Former President Joseph Estrada issued his strongest criticisms against the government since being pardoned last October, warning he would personally lead his supporters and march in the streets in protest of the planned extension of the term of office of Pres. Macapagal-Arroyo, now under consideration in Congress.

“Ako mismo, pangungunahan ko ang aking mga taga-suporta para i-protesta sa kalsada ang balak na ’yan; sobra na ’yan, sa tingin ko magre-rebolusyon na d’yan,” Estrada told DZMM during an early evening interview last Wednesday.

A few hours before, the committee on justice of the House of Representatives “killed” the fourth impeachment complaint against Mrs. Arroyo in as many years, claiming the complaint was “lacking” in substance.

In reaction, Estrada said he expects the lawmakers who trashed the complaint to have a “happy” Christmas. “Siguradong masaya na naman sila; masaya na naman ang Pasko nila,” he said.

Former House Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr., who signed the complaint, bared on Tuesday that last October 11, 2007, Pres. Macapagal-Arroyo personally ordered the distribution of “cash gifts” to lawmakers and local officials in Malacañang amounting to P500,000 each, in order to “buy off” their allegiance.

At the time, Mrs. Arroyo was also facing an impeachment complaint before Congress.

Estrada said the people would not stomach a term extension for Mrs. Arroyo and the other incumbent officials as embodied under HB 550 proposed by Batangas 2nd District Rep. Hermilando Mandanas.

The plan calls for the junking of the 2010 polls and moving it to May 2011, claiming the current term of office of elected officials are “too short” for them to render public service. Only barangay officials shall be barred from benefiting from the proposal once enacted into law.

“She stole the presidency not once, but twice, she was never elected and now she wants to extend her term of office,” Estrada said, referring to his successor.

Estrada, who remains popular and the acknowledged leader of the opposition, was ousted in January 2001 in a military-backed civilian uprising after the impeachment complaint against him was scuttled. He was succeeded by then Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Estrada averred he never tried to influence Congress during its deliberation of the impeachment case against him and did not also protest even when the process was “railroaded” so it can be brought to the Senate for trial.

He was subsequently jailed for plunder when he twice refused a bargain being offered by the government for him to go on exile after formally relinquishing the presidency to Mrs. Arroyo.

He was convicted in September last year but was given full pardon the following month.

Estrada pointed out his action with regards to the impeachment complaint against him was in glaring contrast to the efforts of Mrs. Arroyo to dismiss the four impeachment cases against her even at the committee level of Congress.