Agreeing to disagree
Many people have already weighed in with their own opinions on the issue. Some have gone to great lengths condemning, lambasting, even demonizing (again) the decision to grant clemency and as can be expected, the people who had a hand in it including those who expressed support for it.
On the other hand, there are those who find occasion for jubilation and vindication in the granting of the executive clemency. These are the people who believe that setting Estrada free is long overdue. They also count among their rank arpeople who, under other circumstances, can be held up as fine specimens of nationalism, even intellectual probity.
Once again, we stumble into a contentious issue that has further polarized our already fractious state as a nation.
This is expected because in our country, we simply don’t disagree; we feel compelled to annihilate and demolish the other points of view as if our opinions are the only correct ones. We are not content with just expressing outrage, we want things to turn out the way we want them to, on our terms and our specifications.
Even the process in which the decision was arrived at has already been heavily chronicled.
Some accounts say the President agonized over the decision. Others claim the decision has been a foregone conclusion already evident from the time Estrada stepped down from Malacañang Palace six years ago, when offers to send him on exile were allegedly repeatedly made.
The real motivations behind the granting of the executive clemency have also been the subject of heavy theorizing and analyzing.
There are those who insist that the haste that attended the granting of the clemency is indicative of the desperation of this administration. It needs something—anything—to deflect attention from the series of scandals that have bedeviled it lately. Hence it pounced on the Estrada pardon in a reckless manner. On the other hand, there are those who believe that granting clemency at this time is the right thing to do, given the condition of Estrada’s ailing mother.
Whether the granting of the executive clemency was simply an act of political survival characteristic of the sorry lack of moral compunction of this administration or a noble gesture that tests the strength of our humanity—our capacity to see through our repulsion and our hatred— cannot be divined at this point when there is still too much static in the air.
There is no doubt that this administration is short in the area of moral ascendancy.
The litany of scandals and unethical actions has become simply unbelievably and incredulously too long for comfort. We have every right to be cynical and we can all be forgiven for giving way to generalizations. However, this should still not preclude our ability to examine certain issues and acts within the specific context that surrounds them, particularly those that involve a man’s right to begin a new life.
I have always been vocal about how where I stand insofar as Joseph Estrada is concerned. Like many others, I continue to be bothered by the absence of remorse or the continuing disdainful and contemptuous attitude being displayed by the former President and his family and friends. Like I said before, I have no love lost for the Estradas of this world.
I believe Joseph Estrada should be in jail. Or at least until he shows remorse and asks for forgiveness. I must admit that there is a part of me that wants to forgive.
The guy is 70 years old and I know I will get some flak for saying this, but he is also a product of our collective mistakes. To a large extent, the Joseph Estrada myth and icon is our creation. He rose to power despite dubious competence on the wings of empty promises and rhetoric that the common people found inspiring precisely because of the large-scale inequities in our society.
I wouldn’t go so far as to say that he is a victim of circumstance because he definitely is not; he had more choices than the average person. There is some basis for empathy towards the man.
I also know that there are many others presumably older that Estrada and who are probably guilty of lesser crimes and they are spending the last years of their lives behind bars crying for the same consideration and compassion. But that is exactly the point. They also deserve the break. And if it cannot be done for someone powerful and influential like Estrada, what chance does an ordinary nameless and faceless aging inmate in Bilibid have?
We are a people that love to trundle out interpretations of how democracy should work. And yet, it strikes me that very often we tend to gloss over one very basic principle about democracy. It is a system that stands and thrives on a healthy respect for diversity and divergence of opinions.
We can debate and disagree. We can nitpick and hairsplit as much as we want. But no one has an exclusive franchise to what is right, and by extension, to what is moral. These are concepts that I think are still largely contextual in nature. And yes, these are my opinions and you have every right to disagree.
Which is not to say of course that we should not take things beyond the confines of healthy discourse. There are other valid and legal avenues and alternatives available for those who wish to push the envelope further, for those who wish to take their advocacies and their fight to a higher level. Democracy allows a number of valid and legal options and alternatives.
But in the meantime, I think that we can do away with the threats and the provocation of social unrest. We can definitely do away with the exhortation to government officials to indulge in massive thievery and corruption just because Estrada has been pardoned. We can do away with the rabble rousing and the demagoguery.