Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Erap on comeback: If it's destiny...

By Paolo Romero
The Philippine Star
Updated January 13, 2010 12:00 AM

Original Story: http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=540352&publicationSubCategoryId=68

MANILA, Philippines - Former President Joseph Estrada returned to MalacaƱang Palace for the first time since he was deposed in a bloodless coup in 2001, insisting “destiny” would make it his again.

Estrada, who is running for president in the May elections, had a chance interview with reporters at the Palace where he attended a rare meeting of the National Security Council. He sat beside President Arroyo for two and a half hours.

“That’s destiny,” Estrada replied when asked whether he expected to be back at the Palace as president.

Former presidents and leaders of Congress are invited to the meeting as members. Aside from Estrada, Fidel Ramos is the only other living president but he did not attend the meeting.

"Full of flashbacks," Estrada said of his Palace visit yesterday. "Nine years exactly. I stepped down on Jan. 21, 2001. So that's exactly nine years," Estrada told reporters from the window of his black Lincoln Navigator SUV before it entered the main Palace gate.

Estrada's calculation was incorrect; it was nine days short of nine years.

"I would say that I am glad I was invited to give my advice to help solve some of our pressing problems, especially regarding peace and order," he said. The May elections and dismantling of private armed groups topped the NSC agenda.

Estrada's candidacy is being challenged before the Supreme Court on the grounds that he is no longer eligible to run. The Sandiganbayan convicted the former leader of plunder in 2007 but he was pardoned in October.

"We respect the vision of the former president. Everybody is free to aspire for what he dreams," Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello III said.

"Honestly, he has a winning chance," he added.

"It's the first time he came back to MalacaƱang after so many years and we really welcome his participation," Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said.

"We saw that they (Mrs. Arroyo and Estrada) had a healthy and cordial exchange," Remonde said.

"You can see the aura. You can feel that between the President and the former president there was a very cordial atmosphere," Bello pointed out.

"In fact, I was at their back when they were whispering. I don't know what they were whispering, probably sweet nothings," he said.

Original Story: http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=540352&publicationSubCategoryId=68

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