As a nation, we are once again at a crossroad. The choices before us are not as difficult or complicated as certain quarters would suggest and make the people believe. These do not involve a choice between national interest versus equal protection of the law. It does not involve a choice between mercy versus justice; it does not involve a choice between peace versus the integrity of the justice system. It is much simpler. It is a choice between right versus wrong.

If this nation is to be a Strong Republic, then it cannot be founded on compromise and accommodations in the face of threats, extortion, self-interest or political survival. No pardon can be granted, or even considered, while the convict himself scoffs at the integrity of the justice sysstem that found him guilty; wile he remains defiant; while he remains without remorse. Now, is guilt is beyond question. There is a crime, only, he wants that there should be no punishment.

Former President Estrada claims pardon is in the best interest of the nation. If this is the case, then he should have no problem restituting the full amount declared forfeited by the Sandiganbayan. He should have no problem voluntarily giving up all such amounts beyond his lawful net worth and not supported by his tax returns. All these would o course accrue in favor of the Filipino People. Yet, he demands a full, unconditional and absolute pardon.

Absolute pardon, under the guidelines on executive clemency, cannot be granted in this case. Curiously, however, the government seems only too eager to accommodate the convict. This comes at the heels of news reports depicting a scandal-ridden administration that has lost its moral and legal bearings. It is becoming apparent that the pardon of someone who has betrayed the public trust and who has remained without remorse is being used as a convenient negotiating strategy for the survival of the incumbent President. It appears that neither of them wishes to heed the lessons of history.

We are again united in opposing in the strongest possible terms any grant of pardon to a person who has shamelessly betrayed the public trust and who remains unrepentant to this day.

It would be the height of disloyalty and betrayal of public trust for an incumbent President to trivialize the extraordinary act of pardon for the sake of political expediency. After patiently subscribing to the judicial processes for the last six years, the Filipino people deserve much better from their leader. The public has the right to know the real deal surrounding this issue.

The principle of equal justice under the law requires that every person, no matter what his past position or office, be held accountable for his past sins to the nation since no one is above the law. Moreover, any exception sought to be carved out for a former leader already found guilty beyond reasonable doubt is unacceptable.

The incumbent President has no right to pardon a person who claims that he was unjustly treated by the criminal justice system and that his rights to due process were denied. To pardon such a person is to conclude and fall into his very gambit that there has been a miscarriage of justice. It is a conspiracy between two presidents against the interests of the Filipino people–a negation of what would have otherwise been a resounding victory in the Filipino’s fight against graft and corruption.

Although justice may be tempered with mercy, mercy itself was not meant to substitute for justice. The President cannot pardon a person who makes no admission of guilt; no expression of contrition; and no offer of full restitution. Only the truly repentant deserves an ounce of mercy. The result of a presidential grant of absolute pardon at this time would be an act of injustice to all Filipinos.

Arno Sanidad
Joe Nathan Tenefrancia
John Balisnomo
Elmar Galacio
Marichu Lambino
Bienvenido Somera Jr.
Susan Villanueva
Anthony Peralta
Rafael Antonio Santos
Miguel Silos
Christian Lim
Raoul Angangco
Alejandro Alfonso Navarro
Rodel Cruz
Thea T. Daep-Laurena
Simeon V. Marcelo
Manuel L. Manaligod, Jr.
Sylvette Y. Tankiang
Mildred Pfleider
Elma Christine R. Leogardo
Aida Araceli G. Roxas-Rivera

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