Erap still top opposition figure — Jinggoy

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — FORMER President Joseph Estrada will remain head figure of the opposition no matter what other people say, Senate Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada said yesterday, as he criticized former President Fidel Ramos for sowing political intrigues after Malacañang gave his father absolute pardon last week.

For the first time since his father was ousted as president in January 2001, the young Estrada called Mrs. Arroyo “Pesident” when he expressed his gratitude for granting executive clemency to his father after the Sandiganbayan convicted him plunder.

Estrada had been detained for over six years at his rest house in Tanay, Rizal, while his case was being tried. His lawyers had sought the pardon after realizing that the graft court was not inclined to reconsider its ruling.

“I would also like to thank President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for giving pardon to my father President Joseph Estrada. I think this is the first step toward national reconciliation,” Estrada said in a briefing upon arrival from New York Wednesday midnight.

Asked whether he believes Mrs. Arroyo will finish her term in 2010, the senator said: “I think so.” Will he call up Mrs. Arroyo to personally thank her? The senator said: “Well maybe. I can thank her personally right now.”

“I disagree with what former President Ramos has repeatedly been saying in the media since President Arroyo has issued a pardon for my father, that the days of the Arroyo adminsitation are numbered. I beg to disagree with the opinion of the old man,” he added.

“He (Ramos) has been issuing statements left and right criticizing the Arroyo administration for giving pardon to President Estrada. He is a supreme hypocrite. Wala naman siyang magagawa, eh. Hindi naman siya ang presidente,” he said.

He said that Ramos should come clean with his presidency first and should explain to the people what happened to the alleged anomalous Centennial Expo, the PEA-Amari deal scam, and all the contract that he signed with independent power producers during his term.

He also dismissed loose talks that a deal was struck between Mrs. Arroyo and Estrada when she pardoned her predecessor.

“There was no deal whatsoever. We did not have any deal with this administration,” the younger Estrada said.

“And for the information of others, I will still remain with the opposition. I will do the fiscalizing in the Senate. I will still discharge my duties and responsibilities as a senator of this republic and as a member of the opposition,” he said.