I WOKE up this morning and jumped out of bed to go to the living room and switch on my TV to find out what the verdict was in former President Joseph Estrada's so-called "plunder" trial.
Because of the five hours time difference between Jeddah and Manila, by the time I awoke at 9 a.m., ANC was showing the government's economic presentation live from Makati, but the news ticker line at the bottom of my screen said that Estrada had been found guilty by the Sandiganbayan and sentenced to life in prison! That sounded too harsh to me. After all, he hadn't stolen directly from government coffers and what about his former best friend, Luis Chavit Singson? He should have been tried and found guilty of plunder. After all it was he who funneled jueteng funds from Illocos Sur to Estrada when he was the governor.
Flipping the channel to CNN, Estrada's sentencing didn't even make the top headlines. Depressed by the lack of live coverage, I went back to bed. Later when I woke up again, Sergio Apostol was gloating on television that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was loudly celebrating with administration congressmen in a wing of Malacanang Palace. "She (Mrs. Arroyo) was so happy over the verdict that her laughter was heard the loudest on top of the others among the crowd (of lawmakers) who visited her," according to a Palace insider quoted in Thursday's Daily Tribune.
But Estrada is appealing the conviction and his case will ultimately end up in front of the Supreme Court. As the Black and White Movement said in a statement, what about all the other corrupt politicians such as Virgilio Garcilliano and Benjamin Abalos? Indeed, what about them? A UP professor of political science told ANC today that the Arroyo administration has a tiny window of opportunity now to go after corrupt politicians in its own camp to prove to the country that it is not politically biased against the opposition. Sadly, with the political scene in the Philippines so polarized as it is, I hardly think that President Arroyo is capable of being even-handed even if she wanted to be!