Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Estrada on Palace comeback: That’s destiny

By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:48:00 01/13/2010

Filed Under: Joseph Estrada, Eleksyon 2010, Politics

Original Story: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20100113-247031/Estrada-on-Palace-comeback-Thats-destiny

MANILA, Philippines - “I’m coming back. That’s destiny.”

Joseph Estrada, who is running for president again in the May election, made this vow in a phone interview with the Inquirer on Tuesday after returning to Malacañang almost nine years after his ouster to attend a National Security Council meeting.

The former President admitted he missed the Palace, especially the “everyday course of the presidency.”

“It’s almost nine years today since I left Malacañang. That was Jan. 21,” said the actor-turned-politician.

Estrada, 71, was forced to step down in 2001 after only two and a half years in office by a people power uprising dubbed Edsa II. He was replaced by then Vice President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

He was later convicted of plunder but was promptly pardoned by Ms Arroyo in 2007.

Estrada said he felt a bit awkward while sitting in Heroes Hall during the meeting that tackled private armies and other security concerns in preparation for the elections.

“It’s something new to me because before it was GMA who used to be seated to my right. Now I was the one seated to her right,” he said in Filipino, referring to the seating protocol when he was president and Ms Arroyo was vice president.

Seated to Ms Arroyo’s left was Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and across from them were Vice President Noli De Castro and Senators Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Rodolfo Biazon.

‘Sweet nothings’

Like Estrada, former President Fidel V. Ramos was invited to the meeting, but Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the invitation “came too late.”

Estrada appeared to downplay his encounter with his successor, describing their exchanges as “civil.” One such exchange was when he told Ms Arroyo, “Thank you for inviting me,” to which she replied: “Thank you for coming.”

Bello had a more glowing account of what transpired between the two leaders, describing the atmosphere as “very cordial.”

“In fact, I was at their back while they were whispering (to each other). I didn’t know what they were whispering, probably sweet nothings,” he added.

A real gentleman

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde described Estrada as a “statesman” and a “real gentleman.”

“The fact that the former President, who’s admittedly very popular, attended and actively participated, is a very good symbol of unity toward a common purpose which is the success of elections,” he told reporters.

Estrada said he attended the meeting to show that “politics should take a back seat when it comes to issues of national security.”

Private armies

In the meeting, Estrada said he raised at least two key issues such as the wisdom behind the creation of a commission to dismantle private armies and the fear that the machines to be used in the automated elections might be hacked.

Ms Arroyo had given the seven-person commission until the May 10 elections to weed out all private armed groups in the country.

“I said there was no need to create a commission because the military and the police have the mandate to immediately arrest these people because private armies are illegal per se,” Estrada recounted.

“You’re just adding another layer of red tape. The President can just direct the secretary of interior and local government and the secretary of national defense to dismantle all these private armies,” he added.

Quoting Ms Arroyo, Remonde said the commission “does not supplant both the Armed Forces and the Philippine National Police, but will, in fact, help and support both of them.”

Remonde said Commission on Elections Chair Jose Melo sought to assure the meeting that the machines could not be hacked.

Original Story: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20100113-247031/Estrada-on-Palace-comeback-Thats-destiny

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