Erap on disqualification case: Respect the voters

MANILA, Philippines – As far as former president and now Manila Mayor Joseph "Erap" Ejercito Estrada is concerned, disqualifying him from public office would be undemocratic.

In a memorandum he filed before the Supreme Court (SC), Estrada said ousting him as Manila's chief executive "will result to massive disenfranchisement of votes which is contrary to majoritarian principles of democracy." Estrada won as Manila mayor by a margin of 35,449 votes. The memorandum was released to the media Thursday, June 19.

The memorandum contained Estrada's final arguments on a disqualification case lodged against him over his alleged ineligibility to run for public office on account of his previous plunder conviction.

"... it is clear that the sovereign will of the voting electorate of the City of Manila, which they have expressed through their ballots by voting for Estrada as their Local Chief Executive during the last elections, should thus be RESPECTED and given the FULLEST EFFECT by this Honorable Supreme Court," his memorandum read.

The SC on April 22 committed to act on Estrada's case and ordered all the parties involved to issue their final arguments. (READ: No closure yet on Erap Estrada's plunder case)

Estrada, however, reiterated his call for the SC to hear oral arguments from the two contending sides "to clarify some factual issues raised." 

The petition before the SC seeking Estrada's ouster was filed by lawyer Alicia Vidal, who also filed the disqualification case against him before the Commission on Elections (Comelec). The SC also allowed Estrada's 2013 poll rival and former Manila mayor Alfredo Lim to intervene in the case, a status granted to resolve more effectively the legal dispute.

Vidal filed her petition before the SC, after the Comelec declared Estrada eligible to run due to executive clemency granted by former President Gloria Arroyo. The Comelec said the presidential pardon restored his right to vote and run for public office.

Arguments

In his memorandum, Estrada echoed the Comelec's findings.

"Furthermore, there is absolutely no indication that the executive clemency exercised by President Arroyo to pardon former President Estrada was a mere conditional pardon. It clearly stated that the former president is 'restored to his civil and political rights' and there is nothing in the same which limits this restoration," he said.

Estrada added that the granting of pardon by any president is "in the interest of public welfare," and thus must be respected.

"It can be seen, therefore, that the primary purpose of the pardoning power of the President is to serve as a check-and-balance on the errors and excesses of either of the two branches of government, and at the same time it is a constitutionally chosen means of conveying mercy to individuals," his memorandum read.

Estrada wanted the SC to affirm his "eligibility and qualification" as the duly-elected Manila mayor.

In a recent television interview, Estrada said he is not closing the door to a possible presidential bid in 2016. (READ: Erap might run for president if...)

Estrada was ousted as Philippine president in 2001, following a botched impeachment trial. He was jailed on charges he stole millions from government coffers. The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan declared him guilty of plunder, which consisted of several charges – among them, his acceptance of money from the proceeds of an illegal numbers game called jueteng and his owning P3.2 billion in a bank account under the name Jose Velarde.

Arroyo's pardon prompted Estrada to again run for president in 2010, and a disqualification case based on the same grounds was lodged against him then. The Supreme Court, at the time, did not act on the case.

Estrada placed 2nd to now President Benigno Aquino III in the 2010 presidential polls. He won as Manila mayor in 2013. – Rappler.com