Excerpts of the GMA-7 November 2009 Presidential forum (Tagalog parts translated into English):
PRETTY smart and very straightforward answers from former President Joseph "Erap" Estrada. Herein, he confronts the perpetually hot issue of his Plunder conviction with an un-trapo-like honesty. The comebacking politician also defends his performance during his unfinished first term with regards food security.
On his claim of innocence re theft of government money:
Estrada: Nothing was proven. Nothing was proved with regards [the issue] of my supposed theft of government money, not a single centavo... My conviction pertains to jueteng. That jueteng [money] ....was deposited in the Muslim Youth Foundation, of which I was not a beneficiary. Its Board of Trustees were ...UP professors. So that was clean.
They needed to convict me. That is why they created that court to convict me. That special court--the first time a special court was created. And that court was created to convict me. In fact, when I was convicted, two [Sandiganbayan] justices were immediately promoted to the Supreme Court.
So that was my only conviction. And that I supposedly received commission from one corporation, the BW. But the [one who stood as] witness said I wasn't given the money, it was given to Jaime Dichavez, not to me.
Assuming... that the jueteng and the commission to me, they are called private money, ... not goverment money. That's the two counts I was convicted [for]. Those citing the 7171, re government money--none, I'm cleared.
So [if that were true], I wouldn't have the courage to face the Filipino people and run [for president] again if I did steal, if I were guilty.
Look at the conviction, just the two counts. But with regards graft and corruption, every contract I approved was scrutinized. A Task Force was established by the Department of Justice consisting of six lawyers...who scrutinized everything ... but they didn't see any contract tainted with anomaly. If there were even just one [anomaly] seen, it would have made headlines....
On poverty level during his first term:
Erap: In 1997, just please recall that there was an Asian Economic Crisis.... when i assumed office, our agricultural growth rate was zero-zero. I was able to raise that [agri growth rate level] to 6.6%. Such is documented. And inflation rate was 12%, I reduced it by 3.0%.
And our GNP, I was able to increase it up to 3.6%. This is documented, professor. You can check it with the Department of Finance.
So what are you claiming that.. .... and I concentrated on food security. Re agriculture, from 0-0 growth, raised to 6.6 [percent].
[My administration] just came from the Asian crisis. And I was able to turn the tide. We were able to overcome the [effects of] the Asian crisis. That is on record, Prof. Monsod if you can go out of your way to find out from the Department of Finance.
On Bro. Eddie Villanueva's question re dealing with"perpetrators of extrajudicial killings and of massive gargantuan, unabated corruption":
There should be intense investigation and after the...[conclusion] of the investigation, there should be... "certainty of punishment," which is what's important. There are many people in government that escape prosecution because their cases are [allowed to be] fixed... even extrajudicial killings....
On the part of GMA-7, including Mel Tiangco, the TV station seemed much more civil and less biased here than during the interview they conducted right after Estrada's announcement of his renewed bid to seek the presidency. I discussed this issue in my article Erap's renewed bid for the Presidency: Can he overcome the media bias? Excerpts of that BIASED interview here:
Mike Enriquez: Magandang gabi po Mr. President. Si Mike Enriquez po ito at Mel Tiangco.
Ex-President Joseph Estrada: Magandang gabi sa iyo din kaibigang Mike.
Enriquez: Mayroon pong mga nagsasabi na hindi daw po kayo pinapayagan ng Konstitusyon na tumakbo ulit sa pagka-Pangulo. Ano pong masasabi ninyo diyan Mr. President.
Estrada: Wala. Na-konsulta na natin iyan sa mga retired justices ng Supreme Court at mga dean ng UP law school. Sila ay... masusi nilang pinag-aralan iyan at nagkaisa sila na qualified na qualified daw akong tumakbo bilang Pangulo.
Enriquez: ok, Mr. President. Ang payo nila sa inyo hindi nyo rin nilabag iyong kondisyon noong pagpapatawad na binigay sa inyo ni, o iyong tinatawag na pardon na binigay sa inyo ni Pangulong Arroyo na hindi na kayo kakandidato sa anumang posisyon na tinatawag na elective, Mr. President.
Estrada: Wala pong nakalagay dun sa dispositive portion ng pardon. Yun pong nakalagay po doon: "restoring all civil and political rights." Ang ibig pong sabihin noon, kung pwede akong bumoto, pwede rin akong butohin.
Enriquez: Opo, Mr. President. Isang tanong na lang po ako bago po si Mel Tiangco. Bukod po kay Mayor Jejomar Binay na katambal ninyo sa pagiging kandidato sa pagiging bise-presidente, mayroon ding senatorial line up na, na buo na?
Estrada: Ah, hindi pa. Siguro mayroon na kaming walo hanggang sampu.
Enriquez: Ok, Mr. President. Salamat po. Eto po si Mel Tiangco.
Tiangco: "Sir, hindi maganda ang karanasan ninyo sa Malacanang, bakit gusto n'yo pang bumalik doon?
Tiangco: Bakit ho gusto nyo pang bumalik sa Malacanang, eh kayo na rin ang nagkwekwento kanina na napakapangit ng experience nyo … minsang kayo ay Pangulo ng ating bansa.
Estrada: Napakapangit dahil nagsabwatan sila at ako ay napilitang bumaba. Ang katotohanan nga ay si dating Pangulong Cory Aquino ang nagssisisi kung bakit sumali siya sa EDSA 2. At ako naman ay, iyong mga programa ko para sa kapakanan ng mga mahihirap ay hindi ko nagawa kaya gusto kong ipagpatuloy.
Tiangco: Palagi ninyong nababanggit na kayo ay inosente, hindi totoo ang ang mga pinaratang sa inyo. Eh bakit po tumagal ng anim na taon Sir. Anim na taon kayong nilitis sir, di ba?
Estrada: Anim na taon nga at anim na buwan. Wala silang napatunayan na nagnakaw ako kahit na isang kusing sa kaban ng bayan. Ang totoo nga niyan ay nagtayo ng Task Force ang DOJ--lahat ng kontrata na naaprobahan sa aking administrayon ay hinimay. Himay nila at wala silang nakita na isa mang kontrata na may halong anumalya, sa ano mang kontrata.
Tiangco: Eh bakit po pardon ang naibigay sa inyo
Tiangco: Bakit po pardon?
Estrada: Ewan ko sa kanila?
Tiangco: Hindi po kaya sabi ng ilang diyan ay kaya nais nyo lang tumakbong muli ay para daw balikan iyong mga nagpatalsik sa inyo?
Estrada: Alam mo Mel, sa aking anim na taong ako ay nakakulong ay nalapit tayo sa panginoon. at laging pinaaalala sa akin ng panginoon iyong Lord's Prayer. Iyong ama namin. iyon mga nagkasala sa iyo ay dapat mo ring patatawarin : "Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sins against us." Kaya iyan po ang malapit na malapit na parang laging pinararamdam sa atin ng ating panginoon.
Tiangco: Maraming maraming salamat po sa oras na binigay ninyo sa 24 oras. Magandang gabi po.
Estrada: Salamat, salamat Mel.