Ousted President Joseph Estrada cannot run for public office in 2010 because his political rights were not fully restored when President Arroyo granted him clemency last Oct. 25, the government said yesterday.
However, Estrada insisted yesterday Mrs. Arroyo had given him “absolute pardon.”
In a telephone interview with The STAR, Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera said the order granting Estrada executive clemency “is not a full restoration of political rights.”
“He cannot run for a government position. The conditional pardon also explicitly includes the forfeiture of his properties,” Devanadera said.
In a telephone interview, Estrada said the papers for the pardon that he signed clearly stated that he had regained his “civil and political rights.”
“It is very clear in the dispositive portion that I signed,” he said. “It has words indicating the restoration of civil and political rights. So it is absolute pardon, not conditional.”
Estrada said he did not agree with the contention of Devanadera that the pardon granted to him was conditional and prevented him from seeking public office.
“I don’t believe so,” he said. “The pardon granted to me is indeed absolute. If I can vote, I can be voted upon. Are they afraid of me? But I have no plans to run at this point.”
The last sentence of the fourth paragraph of the order granting executive clemency to Estrada states: “He is hereby restored to his civil and political rights.”
In the 1965 Supreme Court decision “Leon G. Maquera vs. Juan Borra, Cesar Miraflor, and Gregorio Santayana,” Justice Jose Bengzon said in his concurring opinion: “Among the political rights of a Filipino citizen is the right to vote and be voted for a public office.”
Except in the title, the order does not mention the word “pardon” but only “executive Clemency,” a term that could cover the granting of pardon.
“In view hereof and pursuant to the authority conferred upon me by the Constitution, I hereby grant executive clemency to Joseph Ejercito Estrada, convicted by the Sandiganbayan of plunder and imposed a penalty of reclusion perpetua. He is hereby restored to his civil and political rights,” read the order.
In his “Lakbay Pasasalamat” to slum areas in Vitas, Parola and Smokey Mountain in Tondo, Manila; Biñan and Pagsanjan, Laguna; Nueva Ecija; Pateros and Taguig, Estrada said he has no intention to run for the presidency again.
He will just leave the presidency to the capable presidentiables in the opposition, he added.
Estrada said among those who have a chance to become the opposition’s standard-bearer are Senators Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Loren Legarda, Manuel Roxas II, Francis “Chiz” Escudero, his son Jinggoy Estrada and Senate President Manuel Villar Jr.
His visits to different places where his supporters live is his way of thanking them for their unconditional support “through thick and thin,” he added.
Estrada’s supporters are convinced that he deserves to have another try at the presidency in 2010.
Estrada is set to visit today the resettlement site in Taytay in Rizal, where he relocated thousands of squatter families from San Juan when he was the town’s mayor.
“I will be having a gift-giving and lunch with them,” he said.
JOSE RODEL CLAPANO
The Philippine Star