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Ex-Philippine President Estrada set for freedom

A ridiculous day for the Philippines..Pardoning Mr. Erap may have been a good short term decision..(1 month) but for the longer term, this creates a negative image, an image wherein any government official can be corrupt as ever because he/she knows that Pardon is always there..especially if your close to the one's on power. Mrs. Arroyo should not have bowed down to what the surveys, the CBCP, and to most of her allies (two faced allies) granting Mr. Erap a pardon. It was even an unconditional pardon..she should have made it a conditional pardon. Conditions for the pardon should have been: (1) expression of guilt for the charges against him, (2) televised admission of guilt and asking for forgiveness to the filipino people, (3) cannot run for any government post, (4) cannot vote, (5) must refrain from any political maneuvering, (6) must refrain from attending any political event, (7) refrain from any politically motivated advertisements, (8) continuing the process of sequestered assets during his presidency.

The calls for national unity is being used again just to give this man a pardon, how about those people behind bars that have neither been convicted of any crime but still in jail. If national unity was the purpose, I think only half of the filipino's accepted the president's decision of granting pardon, the other half do not concur to it.


By Karen Lema 19 minutes ago

MANILA (Reuters) - Joseph Estrada, the playboy former leader of the Philippines, was preparing for life as a free man on Friday as President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo faced criticism for rushing through his pardon.

Arroyo set aside her ousted predecessor's life sentence on Thursday, just six weeks after he was convicted on corruption charges, raising suspicion the clemency was designed to curry favor with the opposition amid mounting bribery scandals.

"We are disappointed, especially with the haste with which it was done. The timing is very suspect," said Albert Lim, executive director of the Makati Business Club, the Philippines' main commercial forum.

Arroyo, who was Estrada's vice-president and succeeded him after he was ousted in an army-backed revolt in 2001, is facing fresh controversy over accusations of government kickbacks in a $330 million telecoms deal and allegations of cash handouts to allies.

But analysts say unless dramatic new evidence is unveiled Arroyo's position is secure, saved by a middle class fed up with political squabbling, no obvious candidate to replace her and record economic growth.

The criticism of her decision to release Estrada, famed for his "midnight cabinet" of drinking buddies and gamblers, is also not expected to bubble over into popular outrage.

"I don't think there is going to be a hell of a lot of popular fallout for her other than just giving more ammunition for the opposition to beat her up a little bit," said Tom Green, executive director of Pacific Strategic Assessments, a risk consultancy.

"All the polls say that people favor turning Estrada loose."


Estrada, 70, has pledged not to seek public office, but the former movie star is still popular among poor voters who often refer to him by his nickname "Erap" and, as a figurehead for anti-Arroyo groups, could stir up trouble for the president.

"I reiterate my wish to spend the rest of my life as plain citizen Erap. However, this does not mean turning my back on my commitment to our people," Estrada said in a statement.

Financial markets shrugged off the damage to the Philippines' credibility from his impending release, with the stock market closing up 0.45 percent and the peso quoted at 44.03 against the dollar, compared with 44.04 on Thursday.

"It is the fundamentals that's been keeping the market up so I think that would continue to be the case," said Jose Vistan, of AB Capital Securities.

"If these (political scandals) would continue to drag on for an extended period of time, eventually it will have an impact on share prices but as of now, the market is awash with so much liquidity both local and foreign money."

Three bishops have called for Arroyo's resignation and an online petition calling for her and vice-president Noli de Castro to stand down to allow a snap election has gathered 250 signatures since it went live five days ago.

"It's a groundswell of citizens who are disgusted, fed up with all of these things," said Marietta Goco, one of the signatories and a former head of the country's anti-poverty commission.

But Arroyo, who has survived two impeachment bids and at least two coup plots, has a track record of shrugging off challenges.

"If you are asking me, are we going to call for resignation? No, because we already did before and she ignored that so why will we waste our breath," the Makati Business Club's Lim said.

(Additional reporting by Rosemarie Francisco)


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