Erap Back in Palace

Article excerpt

Fate may have sent him to jail instead of finishing his term as President of the Republic nine years ago, but destiny will also bring former President Joseph Estrada back to power by June this year.This was how sure Estrada is about his chances in the May presidential elections when he returned to Malacañang Palace last Tuesday – the first time since he was ousted in a military-backed civilian revolt in January, 2001 – for a high-level security meeting called by his successor, President Arroyo.The former leader is again a presidential candidate in the upcoming elections despite a constitutional ban on presidents seeking reelection. Petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court questioning the legality of his candidacy.Estrada joined President Arroyo and other senior officials in the National Security Council meeting and actively participated in discussions to ensure clean and credible elections this May. Former President Fidel Ramos skipped the security assembly, the first NSC meeting convened by the President in five years, despite an invitation from the Palace.Estrada, speaking to reporters before entering the meeting hall, said he was eager to help in the government’s efforts to ensure peaceful polls, even suggesting the dismantling of private armies through stronger police and military intelligence work rather than through a commission.“Not so," Estrada told reporters when asked whether he was excited to return to the Palace after nine years. "I would say that I am glad I was invited to give few of my advice to help solve some of our pressing problems especially regarding peace and order."Asked if he hopes to return to Malacañang as a reelected President in six months, Estrada chuckled and said: “That’s destiny.”Estrada, a popular leader despite his ouster and conviction for plunder, made a minor mistake about the anniversary of his sudden departure from Malacanang.“After nine years eksakto, January 21st 2001, that’s exactly nine years," he said about his return to the Palace last Tuesday in his familiar low voice.Estrada actually stepped down on January 20, 2001 following the second Edsa People Power. In 2007, Estrada was convicted of plunder but was subsequently pardoned by President Arroyo. …