Recall of Erap pardon unlikely

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THERE is no plan to recall the pardon of convicted plunderer Joseph Estrada even if he has questioned the legitimacy of the administration that granted him executive clemency.

Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio, lead prosecutor in the Estrada plunder trial case, said there is not enough ground to recall the pardon order since all he has been doing was to express his opinion against President Arroyo. “Just because he was making that statement? No. We have no plans for the moment.”

Villa-Ignacio has expressed dismay over the President’s grant of pardon to Estrada, noting that like any other Filipino, the deposed leader has constitutional rights.

Estrada’s spokesman Margaux Salcedo said Estrada remains the living symbol of Philippine democracy, and he has all the right to speak against all the wrongdoings in the government.

The pardon of Estrada was suggested by the Department of Justice on the ground that Estrada violated the terms of his pardon when he joined the call for President Arroyo’s resignation in the wake of scandals hounding her administration.

Justice Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor earlier hinted the pardon granted to Estrada could be revoked after the opposition leader called President Arroyo an “ illegitimate president.”

Blancaflor said that Estrada is in no position to call Mrs. Arroyo an illegitimate president, considering that he asked for and accepted the pardon from her.

By questioning the legitimacy of the authority that issued his pardon, Blancaflor said Estrada is in effect questioning the legitimacy of his own pardon.

“His pardon given last Oct. 25 had several conditions, one of them [is] not running for public office and payment of civil fines. Be that as it may, he can’t claim the President is illegitimate because he accepted in writing the pardon that was given to him. The pardon has been consummated,” Blancaflor said.

The justice department will still study if the statements of Estrada can be a basis to revoke his pardon or file new charges against him.

Malacañang officials also sneered at the offer of Estrada to lead a caretaker government if Mrs. Arroyo goes on leave and faces an impeachment trial over the national broadband network scandal.

But Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said there is nothing seditious in the statements made by Estrada when he called Mrs. Arroyo an illegitimate president.

But he said the department is still studying the possibility of recommending the revocation of the conditional pardon given by Malacañang to Estrada in the light of the statements.

“I don’t think that is seditious. We need to read the entire context of his statement. That is in connection with his calling the President illegitimate. But that should not be given much credibility as he was the one who had asked for pardon,” said Gonzalez.

According to the disgraced leader, he accepted the pardon because he had lost hope of getting justice after six years of litigation before the anti-graft court.