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With Due Respect

Estrada: Why was I ousted?

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“The Constitution states that the Vice President may become President only in case of death, permanent disability, removal from office, or resignation of the President. Why then was I ousted, and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) installed as President when, clearly, I have not died, have no permanent disability, have not been removed from office, and have not resigned?” asked President Joseph Ejercito Estrada during our encounters.

More questions. He likewise lamented, “During my two and half years in office, I named several justices. Why is it that none of them dissented from the 13-0 decision ousting me? Why did Chief Justice [Hilario] Davide, whom I also appointed, swear in GMA as permanent President, not merely as Acting President?”

I do not have the space to detail the Edsa II events that triggered Estrada’s ouster and GMA’s ascension. But readers may refer to the Jan. 13, 2002, Inquirer on the “Filipino of the Year 2001” award to the Supreme Court and the Feb. 25, 2002, issue on the “riveting behind-the-scenes excerpts” from “The Fall of Joseph Estrada: The Inside Story” by columnist Amando Doronila.

In this piece, let me just focus on my conversations with Estrada. To begin with, the Supreme Court’s role in Edsa II began on the early morning of Saturday, Jan. 20, 2001. At that point, the massive, chanting throng at the Edsa Shrine was poised to march on and take over Malacañang where Estrada and his supporters were entrenched.

At that point also, the major commands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police had publicly withdrawn their support from Estrada and pledged their allegiance to GMA. The majority of the Cabinet members had resigned. Clearly, Estrada could no longer govern the country, but GMA had no legal authority to lead either. In short, there was no effectively functioning government.

Worried that violence, civil strife and bloodshed would ensue, I proposed that Arroyo be sworn in as “Acting President.” CJ Davide agreed, and in a hurriedly-convened session that morning, the justices concurred. However, during the historic oath-taking at noon of that day at the Edsa Shrine, Davide swore in GMA “to act as President,” not as “Acting President.”

Totality test. The following Monday, Jan. 22, some justices were furious at the different oath administered. Davide accepted full responsibility for the change, saying that the words “to act as President” were neutral and could, at the proper time and case and after full hearing, be clarified.

After a lengthy deliberation, the Court unanimously passed a resolution “to confirm the authority of the Chief Justice to swear in” GMA as “President of the Philippines.” In Estrada vs Desierto (March 2, 2001) came the “proper time and case.” The Court, voting 13-0 (Davide and I inhibited on motion of Estrada’s counsel Rene A.V. Saguisag), upheld the ouster of Estrada and the legitimacy of GMA’s presidency.

The decision, written by Justice Reynato S. Puno and concurred in by five others—Justices Jose A.R. Melo, Leonardo A. Quisumbing, Minerva P. Gonzaga-Reyes, Sabino R. de Leon and Arturo B. Buena (who voted “in the result”)—explained that resignation may be express or implied.

It held that though Estrada had not written any express resignation, “the totality of prior, contemporaneous and posterior facts and circumstantial evidence,” put together, could be and were in fact construed as implied resignation—hence the term “constructive resignation.”

It said that the diary of then Executive Secretary Edgardo Angara serialized in the Inquirer provided “an authoritative window” on Estrada’s “intent to resign,” confirmed by “his leaving Malacañang … without saying that he was leaving the Palace due to any kind of disability and that he was going to reassume the presidency as soon as the disability disappears.”

It added that constructive resignation was strengthened by two more facts: (1) Congress confirmed Teofisto Guingona Jr.’s nomination as Vice President to replace GMA, and (2) Congress “clearly rejected” Estrada’s claim of being merely a “President on leave.”

Reality and redemption. Justice Josue N. Bellosillo opined that Estrada suffered from permanent “functional” disability. Justice Vicente V. Mendoza clarified that what enabled GMA “to assume the presidency was … the vacuum in executive leadership which made the government rife for seizure by lawless elements.” Justice Jose C. Vitug held that Estrada practically abandoned the presidency, an act equivalent to resignation.

Justices Santiago M. Kapunan, Bernardo M. Pardo, Consuelo Ynares-Santiago and Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez ruled that Estrada had not resigned. But the stark reality was that GMA had actually taken over the presidency and was recognized as such by Congress, the international community and the Filipino people. In Gutierrez’s words, “this Court has to declare as a fact what in fact exists.” Pardo, Santiago and Gutierrez were Estrada appointees. Their “reality” stance answers Estrada’s earlier question.

Though Estrada still maintains he did not resign, I think he has accepted the immutability of his fall. All he now hopes and prays for is to be given a chance to redeem himself in the way he knows best: by serving the people for one last time as mayor of Manila. After all, with full knowledge of his checkered past and his heroic effort to resurrect from misfortune, the people have spoken loud and clear. And in a democracy, the ultimate axiom is:  Vox  populi,  vox  Dei.

* * *

Comments to chiefjusticepanganiban@hotmail.com


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  • muddygoose

    For all intents and purposes, what happened originally was an uprising against a corrupt and rotting system. I was there in Edsa myself, a young professional fresh from UP and very idealistic.

    But it was a failed uprising. The military, allied with the GMA-FVR clique basically staged a coup d’etat with their withdrawal of support. GMA, FVR, and the likes of Joe De Venecia basically pulled a fast one on us by making it appear that the uprising was successful and that change was happening. They tricked so many people, including CJ Davide and Senator Nene Pimental, including me, my friends, and my family. They had no intention of changing the rotting system.

    The next time we go to the streets or the boondocks to wage our own little revolution, we better ask ourselves, ‘Who are we doing this for? Will our actions result in real change?’

    • mad_as_Hamlet

      * * * * * *

      That’s right! In the heat of battle, people can sometimes lose sight of the war’s overall objective.

      – - -

      • franciscoyapanalagbate

        Ang isang huwad na pagpapalit ng pinuno ng bansa ay naghatid ng malupit, masaklap, at malaking kabiguan sa bayan. Hindi pagbabago tungo sa tagumpay ng bayan ang script nina tabako, (pa-porma lang yun), gma, cory,davide, panganiban, at iba pa, kundi iluklok ang kanilang kauring naghaharing-uri. Hindi nila masikmura na ang Pangulo ay iniluklok ng masang gulapay sa hirap at dusa at hindi nila kauri, bukod pa sa napipintong pagbubulgar ni Erap ng kasakiman ni tabako at ng kanyang gang. Kanya-kanyang panahon lang yan. Kung ano ang itinanim ay siyang aanihin. May unti-unti ng nagbabayad ng kanilang inutang sa bayan. The long arm of the law will catch on them all in one way or the other. And God’s justice will be inevitable, unavoidable, inescapable, and equitable. They can ran but they can’t hide as their conscience has been gnawing so excruciatingly. They might have all the money in the world but they have no peace. They are actually a miserable lot that need each other’s company. God bless the Philippines.

    • Bayanpanona

      haha! now you realize.

  • rodben

    Why was I ousted? You try to investigate Ramos….. But Ramos ask the support of cory, Binay, de Venecia and elit groups and they used the popularity of GMA that time… Ramos is the one open the door of the ELITE peoples and politico’s to enrich them selves….no Philippine President can dream as pro-poor… Elite peoples were easily to remove him in power… they can invest enough money to pay ralliest..

    • Imeldita

      GMA was not popular. In fact it was a choice between lesser evil.

  • kulkat8

    You were ousted because you were planning to expose Ramos anomalies. Tanga ka pala eh.

    • ARIKUTIK

      Kinalaban nya ang mga Generals ni Ramos at ang “robbers in robe” kasi para sa ikabubuti ng Pilipinas.

      Kaya ayan nag revolution tuloy ang mga kalaban nya. Ninakaw nila ang adhikain ng mga aping Pilipino.

      • kulkat8

        Lesson learned. If you are hiding something in the closet its best for you to shut your mouth. Remember Estrada is not clean either.

  • Yahilawod

    All’s well that ends well. For Erap that is. Reyes shot himself, GMA is in jail, others disappeared into mediocrity and oblivion while the rest of us are scratching our heads. Vox populi, vox Dei? We must be worshipping the wrong God.

  • AlzheimersC

    Judge Panganiban’s confession on his transgression against the people? An Angelo Reyes without the bullet?

  • http://www.yahoo.com JOSE RIZAL

    Just file the case, or any form of objection, to the Supreme Court and let the law decide on his “plunder” penalties (to include his “non-eligiibility to run for public post), period.
    No more reminiscing on what had happened. He had been sentenced by a competent court. And if so, then the “rule of law” must prevail.
    With due respect, enough of all the CHITCHAT!

  • http://www.yahoo.com JOSE RIZAL

    “Vox populi, vox Dei”, as applied by Panganiban to the case of ERAP, is just like saying, “If you’re popular ‘masa” movie star, in the Philippine political setting, all your fans can make you the messenger of God, as their fanaticism is, in fact, the voice of God”.
    Naging Chief Justice ka pa, kung lahat pala ng may katuturang linya ay “binalahura” mo lang…sayang ka.

  • Lakan Kildap

    the Supreme Court justices, with Davide as their ‘face’ determined the outcome of Edsa Dos. the leadership could have gone to anyone, anyone truly worthy. but by going the “legal” route and the rule of succession, the SC judges basically tied us to GMa forever. Kung si GMA, na noo’y VP, ang ipinalit kay Erap, e di si Noli ang ipapalit sana kay GMA kung si GMA ay matagumpay na napaalis sa pwesto simula nung mabunyag ang “Hello Garci”. No wonder hindi natanggal si GMA. hinintay pang matapos ang termino bago nakasuhan.

  • felix1959

    kaya tignan nyo ang nangyari sa pilipinas ng si Gloria na ang umupo! lalong nabalahura!

  • Luthmar

    Erap, one simple answer why you were ousted – STUPID DIRTY OLD MAN KA.



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