The Return of Joseph "Erap" Estrada -- A Legal Precedent or A Constitutional Crisis?
History is repeating itself but it doesn’t look that way. The formal announcement of former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada’s second campaign for the presidency is actually a field day for legal eagles and law students.
The Philippine Constitution says the President will serve a single 6-year term with no re-election. Estrada was elected in 1998, so his term ended in 2004, right? But in 2001 came the Edsa 2 Revolution, and he ceased to be President.
(This was when then Vice President Gloria Arroyo got the top post and since then has been refusing to let go but that’ another story.)
Depending in where you stand politically, Estrada:
- Took a leave of absence
- Was deposed
There’s no point in asking, “Can Erap run again?” because he already is. The question should be, “Is Erap’s campaign illegal?”
Duh! Hello! says Romy Macalintal, Arroyo’s lawyer. Of course he will say that. Curiously though, he won’t file a motion.
Nonsense! says Makati Mayor Jojo Binay, Erap’s running mate. Of course he’ll say that. The thing is, he’s a lawyer too.
It’s like 1976 again. Ninoy Aquino was running for the Senate but was under-aged, at 34 (he should be 35) during the campaign – but he’ll be 35 on proclamation day. The Marcos administration’s tactic was to let Ninoy run and freeze him later with a Supreme Court judgment. But Ninoy’s chief legal counsel, Jovito Salonga, sealed his victory and set a landmark precedent – brilliantly – and changed the course of the country’s history.
Erap has enough excess political baggage to sink another SuperFerry, and it seems the Arroyo administration is giving him, metaphorically, enough rope to hang himself. What will happen to Erap’s comeback? Nobody knows at this point, but it gets more complicated if you ask lawyers.
At any rate, we should not that Erap was the first incumbent President to face impeachment proceedings, but he also got the biggest electoral vote in the history of Philippine politics.
Photo courtesy of Migs