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Estrada wants complete pardon
Former President Joseph Estrada said he would not consider a deal from President Gloria Arroyo, demanding an unconditional pardon from his archrival after his corruption conviction.
In a telephone interview with Agence France-Presse on Wednesday, Estrada again insisted he was innocent and said he would soon file an appeal. Last week, Sandiganbayan sentenced the 70-year-old former president to life in prison on two counts of plunder.
“I will accept an absolute or unconditional pardon,” Estrada said from his villa in Tanay, Rizal, where he is under house arrest.
“I will never admit I am guilty. I have been in detention for six years and went to the court. I could have left the country, but I did not.” Estrada, who was deposed in an army-backed popular revolt in 2001, was the first president in Philippine history to be convicted of plunder.
It was alleged that the former movie star had amassed more than $80 million (about P3.6 billion) in wealth gained through tax kickbacks and illegal gambling payoffs. His conviction triggered low-key protests, but his supporters have vowed to take to the streets ahead of his appeal. Police have remained on alert for any signs of trouble that may erupt. “I will exhaust all legal remedies. I appeal to my supporters to calm down, because they will only be hurt,” Estrada said, branding the government security detail involving 6,000 policemen on the day of the verdict “overkill.”
“That was a show of force and clearly people do not have the freedom to assemble and air their grievances,” he said.
Mrs. Arroyo’s aides visited Estrada in detention before the verdict and have floated suggestions through the press that the government may be ready to grant him a pardon.
Presidential aides have also said that Mrs. Arroyo may personally visit Estrada. A pardon, analysts have said, could calm political tensions and finally bring a close to a bitter political drama that has dragged on for six years and slowed economic growth in the country.
“If the appeal fails in the graft court, we will go to the Supreme Court,” Estrada said.
Earlier this week, Palace officials said they favor pardoning Estrada. But Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sergio Apostol said that would only be possible if the antigraft court’s decision is already final and executory. That means Estrada would have to forgo his right to appeal or file a motion for reconsideration, Apostol explained. Otherwise, Estrada could wait five to 10 years before the Supreme Court decides with finality, he said. Also, Estrada’s spokesman said the former president was favoring an amnesty.
And that he was insistent on not admitting to any wrongdoing. Apostol said an amnesty is unlikely, given that plunder is not a political crime. Estrada’s son, Mayor JV Ejercito of San Juan, said that until Saturday, the former president was still leaning toward amnesty. An amnesty was favorable because admission of guilt is not required. On Wednesday, Ejercito said at a forum that he feels that his father should reject a presidential pardon—again, because his father is innocent.
Besides, the mayor doesn’t trust the government, which may attach conditions. Referring to the Arroyo administration, he said, “I never felt an ounce of sincerity from them since day one, when they assumed power and overthrew President Estrada.” During his six years under house arrest, Estrada has built a museum at Tanay, depicting his life as a movie star and politician. It also contains mementos from his two-and-a-half year term as president, as well as a mini-theater where a documentary about the “illegal coup” that toppled him is shown.
“This museum will vindicate me,” Estrada said, noting that it also describes his real-life roles, ranging “from movie actor, mayor, president and now—prisoner.”
Source:the manila times
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