Patricio P. Diaz
The final nail has been driven. President Erap is now sealed as a myth. A myth of a President he will go down in history: President JosephEjercito Estrada, by itself an alias with many more aliases.
The 13-0 vote of the Supreme Court declaring him resigned has made the ouster of President Estrada irreversible and the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-arroyo incontestable. The Supreme Court confirmed the acts of Congress and the popular judgment at EDSA.
Estrada and his die-hard supporters can file a petition for reconsideration in vain: the Supreme Court will not reverse its 13-0 vote. However, they are free to believe and tell the world that President Erap is
just “on leave”.
With the Supreme Court’s last word, the doctrine on electoral mandate has become clear. As a social contract between the people and the elected official, in the present case the President, mandate can be withdrawn if the official does not perform his part of the contract.
The deposed President, his defense counsel and his die-hard supporters had misconstrued mandate. They contended that the President could not be removed from power because he had received his mandate from more than 10 million voters in May 1998.
They looked at mandate as an absolute right to rule, immutable and inviolable under constitutional guarantee, within the six-year term of the President, who can do whatever he wants to under the mantle of that mandate.
They failed to see mandate as a social contract. The people, by their majority or highest plurality vote, agree to bestow on the candidate of their choice the power to rule as President (or any other office) on the condition that he upholds the dignity and integrity of that office and governs for the good of the country and people.
Estrada abused his powers as President. He desecrated the Presidency. While incompetent in leadership, he disregarded morality and existing laws to enrich himself, his families and his cronies.
The people decided to abrogate the social contract, his mandate, in order to save the country from political and economic disaster. Thus, the call for the President to resign, starting from the middle of 1999, intensified to climax at the People Power II revolution, January 16-20, 2001.
President Estrada, his defense and die-hard supporters claimed that People Power II had no right to deprive him of his constitutional mandate. He was voted into power by the masa or the poor. People Power II consisted of the middle class and the rich.
The claim was fallacious. It should be admitted that more of the 10 million votes Mr. Estrada got were from the masa because the poorest of the poor compose the vast majority of the Filipinos. But, it should not be denied that a significant percentage of his votes came from the middle class as well as the rich.
Who financed his election? Who volunteered to be his advisers? Who composed his cabinet? Not the masa but the rich and the upper middle class.
With his popularity, Estrada took advantage of the poor. But, in power, he used the government to repay his debt of gratitude to his political financiers and to enrich himself, his families and his friends.
When in trouble, Estrada took advantage of the naiveté of the masa. He knew he was their idol. In telling them that the rich were removing his mandate that they, the masa, had given, he fomented a class war a civil war at the worst the masa against the rich.
If Estrada and his supporters had their way, he would only resign if it were the masa that told him to. The greater part of his mandate came from them.
But this was unlikely. Estrada and his supporters knew that. The masa worshipped their idol. They were too naïve to believe he was doing wrong. If they did, they were too timid to protest.
It was the middle class as well as the rich who could tell the difference between good government and bad government; between competence and incompetence in leadership; between morality and integrity in office and the lack of these. And it was they who have the courage and the will to protest.
Democracy, in its real meaning, is enlightened, not servile; militant, not timid. Only the middle class as well as the rich can stage a democratic revolt; the masa will only suffer destitution and oppression. Do they know their democratic rights?
Hence, Estrada and his supporters took advantage of the naiveté, blind loyalty and ignorance of the masa when he rallied them for support in the name of democracy. Use the poor? Yes! Help them? No!
All that after the 13-0 vote of the Supreme Court – is now over: Estrada’s pretension to the Presidency; his deception of the masa that he is their president and that he will soon be back to Malacañang.
His claim to immunity from criminal suit is also over. Soon after the filing of the criminal cases against him, the Sandiganbayan will order him arrested and jailed. His lawyers will fight for house arrest only. Will they get it?
With Estrada in detention and facing a battery of criminal cases, President Erap will remain so only in a myth. In Philippine history, he will go down as the President who did all wrong. He wrongly predicted that, in the end, like in his many movies, he would triumph as the hero.
Legally and politically, President Erap is no more. Will the masa understand and accept this? Or, will they continue believing President Erap, the myth, and give their vote to the Puwersa ng Masa national and local candidates?
Estrada, the President, is gone. But President Erap may live on as a myth.