June 28, 2007

Reply to PDI Editorial "Plundered watch"

Mr. Jorge Aruta
Opinion Editor, Philippine Daily Inquirer

Dear Sir,

Having been the subject matter of your newspaper’s editorial, “Plundered watch” last June 21, allow me to clarify the position of Plunderwatch and Bayan on the plunder case against former President Joseph Estrada and correct misimpressions that the editorial may have caused among your readers.

The editorial’s allegation that I and Plunder Watch "kept away" from Mr. Estrada’s plunder trial due to a "tactical alliance" with the latter are untrue and unfair.

Plunder Watch and Bayan have not given up on their stand against plunder, be it by Mr. Estrada or any other government official, past, present or future.

Plunder Watch filed a case with the Ombudsman against Mr. Estrada based on testimonial and documentary evidence disclosed in the unfinished impeachment trial at the Senate. We did so, on the belief there were enough grounds to hold him liable for the crime of plunder as well as to give him his day in court.

We wanted justice to be served. We sought the successful prosecution of the case and Mr. Estrada’s conviction solely on the basis of evidence presented. It was a way of making high government officials accountable for their wrongful acts as well as to serve as a strong warning to others.

Throughout the early years of the trial, we upheld the position that no special treatment be accorded the accused especially in exchange for some political accomodation to Malacanang. We mobilized many times at the Supreme Court when the constitutionality of the plunder law was questioned until the law was upheld.

Plunderwatch was eventually excluded and marginalized from the plunder case by the Prosecution itself. From having access to information on how the case would be prosecuted, what critical junctures were anticipated and when mass protest and expert opinion were most needed, it was kept at bay and gradually shut out. Its views were not sought; its interventions, not welcomed.

We arrived at the conclusion that the case against Mr. Estrada was being tried on the basis of carrot-and-stick tactics and consequent blow-hot, blow-cold signals emanating from Malacanang that was using the trial as a means to force Mr. Estrada to accede to their political agenda. Subsequently we refused to be a party to the farcical and tainted trial proceedings. Towards the end of 2003, Plunderwatch altogether stopped attending the Sandiganbayan trial. Most of the individuals and groups that composed it, including Bayan, found themselves having to address the more pressing issues spawned by the Arroyo regime – the worsening cases of corruption and plunder, the systematic and nationwide slaughter of activists and the almost total subservience to US and foreign monopoly capital dictates.

The “Garci tapes” scandal broke out in June 2005, more than a year and a half after Plunderwatch disengaged from the Estrada trial. A broad array of political forces called for Mrs. Arroyo’s ouster. This marked the first time that Bayan member organizations and leaders marched in the streets with personalities and groups identified with the former President.

The principled position and actions of Plunderwatch have been documented and are there for anyone to scrutinize and take issue with. Neither Plunderwatch nor Bayan have compromised their stand on the Estrada plunder case -- then or now. Certainly not for any imagined monetary or political considerations arising out of a tactical alliance to oppose the Arroyo regime.

Is Mr. Estrada guilty of the crime of plunder? That was supposed to be determined through a fair and honest trial by an independent court of law. Plunderwatch did its part: it filed the case and tried its best to support the Prosecution and keep the public vigilant. But given the flawed and highly tainted Sandiganbayan trial, it is now difficult to achieve justice or even arrive at a credible resolution of the case.

Clearly, a conviction at this point will not serve to deter corrupt government officials who today abuse their power, cover-up their crimes and maintain their most illegitimate rule.

Yours truly,

Dr. Carol P. Araullo
Plunderwatch convenor and Bayan Chairperson


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