Erap at peace with himself

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — “I AM at peace with myself.”

As the nation reverberated yesterday with varied reactions on his controversial conviction, deposed President Joseph Estrada only had these six words to say on his 40-year prison term.

Estrada submitted himself to the authority of the court “against the advice made by well-meaning friends and supporters “who believed that I would not get justice under this administration.”

“Today, the Sandiganbayan convicted me of plunder, a crime I did not commit. I assure you that I remain calm even if my lawyers and I disagree with the findings and conclusions of the court. I am at peace with myself notwithstanding the guilty verdict because you, my beloved countrymen have overwhelmingly acquitted me. You have clearly expressed this not only in the various surveys before, during and after the trial but also when you elected my wife, Senator Loi and my son, Sen. Jinggoy, to the Senate and re-elected my other son, JV, as mayor of San Juan. This is the judgment that matters to me,” Estrada said.

Estrada also admitted his decision to participate in the proceeding was a “gamble.”

“This is the only forum where I could tell the Filipino people my innocence,” a disappointed. That’s why I took a gamble. I thought the rule of law will prevail over here.

This is really a kangaroo court. This is a political decision,” the convicted president said.

The ex-president’s son JV said the family members can still hold their heads high despite the conviction. “We have nothing to be ashamed of, my father is and remains, a victim of political persecution of this administration,” JV said.

For his part, Sen. Jinggoy issued a separate statement saying he received the verdict “with much disappointment and indignation.”

“While I am relieved to have been acquitted as co-conspirator, we have always maintained that the charges against me, my father and Atty. Edward Serapio have been part of the grand scheme of harassment by this illegitimate regime to persecute its critics and enemies,” Jinggoy said.

Meeting the press at a hastily called press conference later, Estrada’s lawyers led by former solicitor general Estelito Mendoza, former prosecutor Jose Flaminiano and former senator Rene Saguisag, said they would file a motion for reconsideration “so the court can correct its mistakes.”

Saguisag added that “from the very start and with due respect to the justices (of the Special Division), I always maintain that Pres. Erap cannot get a fair trial from a special court. The purpose of any special court is to convict,” Saguisag stressed, adding:

“Why am I not surprised by this ruling?”