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Erap: Arroyo 'likely' victim of political persecution

MANILA, Philippines – Former president now Manila Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada said former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was a "likely" victim of political persecution after the Supreme Court cleared her of plunder charges. 

Estrada made the statement in an interview with reporters on Wednesday, July 20, where he welcomed the High Court’s verdict on Arroyo.

Asked if Arroyo’s detention was politically motivated, Estrada said: “Malamang, ganun lang ‘yun, eh. Napatunayan na wala siyang kasalanan. Mabuti naman at napalaya na siya (It’s likely the case. It’s been proven that she’s not guilty. It’s good that she has been [ordered] released).”

He said that he was “happy that she is also free,” apparently referring to his own experience of detention and eventual release, though in Estrada's case, he was convicted of plunder but freed after getting a presidential pardon from Arroyo.

Katulad din ng nangyari sa akin. Humingi na tawad ang dating Pangulong Cory Aquino, humingi ng tawad ang simbahan. Wala naman silang napatunayan na nagnakaw ako. Lahat ng mga pinirmahan kong kontrata, wala silang napatunayan,” Estrada said.

(Just like what happened to me. The late president Cory Aquino as well as the Church apologized to me. They [prosecution] did not prove that I stole [from the government]. They didn’t prove anything based on the contracts that I signed [as president],” he said.

In 2008, as the Arroyo administration continued to be rocked by corruption scandals, Mrs Aquino apologized to Estrada in a public event they both attended, for being part of the movement that ousted him in January 2001.

Estrada, who was arrested a few months after his ouster, was detained for over 6 years or until late 2007 as he awaited the verdict on his plunder case.

The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan found him guilty of plunder in late 2007 but Estrada didn’t serve even a minute of his prison term as Arroyo pardoned him.

Respect SC ruling

The Manila mayor also said there’s nothing anyone could do now but to respect the High Court’s decision.

Wala na tayong magagawa diyan, kung talagang walang kasalanan. Korte Suprema na ‘yan. Kailangang igalang natin (There’s nothing we can do in that regard. She’s not guitly. That’s the Supreme Court decision, we have to respect it.)

Senator Francis Pangilinan said as much in a statement on Wednesday: “Due process is what former President Arroyo – and because she is a public servant, what the country’s institutions – went through the last 5 years. Her acquittal is the result of the rule of law. We may or may not like the result. That is final, and we respect the decision of the Supreme Court.”

Estrada also said in his media interview that he last saw Arroyo when he visited her at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC), where she was under hospital arrest, last year. 

Like Estrada, Arroyo ran for public office after the presidency. She is serving her third term as Pampanga 2nd District Representative in the 17th Congress. – Rappler.com