Judgement day… or maybe not…

I suppose there really is no other way to call today. Like what the Philippine Daily Inquirer said, this day took 6 years, 4 months and 17 days to get here. I’d say it was longer, since this whole sordid mess actually started…

… hm. I was going to say, “on the day Tito Guingona made his “I accuse” speech in October 2000.” But I realized that the… drama, the tragedy that is the “Erap Era” actually began the day he ran for the presidency, and supposedly well-meaning people – i.e. those that say they aren’t against Estrada personally but out of a concern for the Republic (again, supposedly; so hard to trust any of my elders since 8 July 2005) – went against the very real possibility that the third president of the Republic post-EDSA would be the one with the supposedly weakest credentials.

I once claimed that we gave him a chance; for more than two years, Erap’s presidency was unassailable, and he had managed to cow, coerce or compromise nearly every adversary to his rule. It would take a combination of factors and interests, and not a bit of stupidity on the part of Estrada’s people, to bring to this day the man who managed to garner the highest electoral mandate for a President in the history of Asia’s first democracy.

But now, seeing how… blatant was the power grab by no less than the paragons of civil society themselves during the Hello Garci issue, one has to wonder if the mighty fortress that was Erap fell to a relentless assault.

I don’t contend our actions during the juetengate, or when we fought against the massed throng of Erap supporters on 1 May 2001. We operated within the context of what we knew then, what we were told. You could probably say that, indeed, 2 1/2 years of outrageous behavior unfit for the highest position in the land merited such a response. At the end of it all, Erap’s regime was a powder keg waiting for someone to light the fuse.

But today it ends. For over four years and several other scandals, Erap was afforded the opportunity to properly defend himself. Today, we finally find out whether he’s guilty or not, at least in the eyes of law as interpreted by the magistrates of the Sandiganbayan.

After seeing how Tony Carpio made such a mockery of justice, I’m not a big fan of Philippine legal processes either. Evidence and procedure, even the skill and general savvy of the lawyers one hired for defense, seem to matter little sometimes. And given how politically-charged this issue is, questions of law, evidence and procedure are added another, less objective dimension.

So am I saying that Erap will or won’t get a fair and just verdict today? I really can’t say. Based on various reports, the presiding justice of the Special Division handling the Estrada case is a good one, reliable even. And although Erap’s defense team is second to none, the Prosecuting team is considered a powerhouse in itself, whose lead is not only a seasoned state prosecutor but one who knows the lawyering style of many of the top guns in the Erap defense team.

I think the important part of this whole thing is that it ends today.

Or does it?

Sleepy as I am, I really can’t stop being a Mentat.

It only ends today if Erap is found guilty. Knowing the Supreme Court, and depending on how… thorough the Sandiganbayan decided on the case, any judgment given by it would most likely be sustained by the SC. A guilty verdict will reaffirm our actions from October 2000, for our present reality is predicated on the belief that Erap did something so horrendously wrong that we had to subject him to a lot of rather horrible experiences.

Now, an innocent verdict…

Haha. That would be rich, no? Suddenly the whole equation changes. If Erap is found innocent of the charges that were the casus belli of the RIO and People Power II… what do we do then? That would be the most horrendous of “oops” scenarios I will ever experience, believe me.

If he’s innocent, then we have a lot to answer for… and a lot more reasons to be angry to our elders in civil society about…

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